Sunday, April 5, 2015

The pony learns to be ponied!

As I'm sure I mentioned, Mac loves the ladies. One of our early issues was his distraction when working around mares (because I didn't have them at home so seeing one was very interesting) and his nickering at them and making googly eyes at them and acting a bit studdish.

For the past couple months, all the horses have been out together during the day. There's minimal drama, as Mac has decided that he's not falling for any mareish baloney and he's not really romantically interested in her. This pleases me very much.

Our new place has a small indoor arena and on one short side (on the other side of the wall) is PFP's paddock. I just started riding this week and have been riding Mac indoors so that PFP can watch. Like all horses, she learns by watching, and so I thought it a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the set-up I've got. I'll ride around with my flag and if she's being a busybody and pawing at the gate that opens to her paddock, I'll give a little wave of the flag. Or I'll grab the lunge whip and just sit on Mac and swing it around his head, around his sides, whatever. She watches. I've sat on Mac, lined up along the wall and sort of threw the lash end of the lunge line in PFP's paddock and she'd sort of perk up and give it a look and then I'd drag it away and she'd walk after it and she'd stop and I'd stop. Or I'd sit on Mac and swing my rope onto the ground and drag it. Stuff like that.

So I've then been doing ground work with PFP and she seems less reactive, which is great. On Friday I used an extra lead rope to drag along the ground, or swish it on the ground so it looks like a snake, or lay it on the ground and have her walk over it, or throw it over her back, flanks, butt, etc. She was great.

Friday was the day I decided to pony her . . . off of Mac . . . who has never ponied another horse before.

After my ground work with PFP, I tied her to a big post in the arena, tacked up Mac (while she tried to paw her way to China), and did some ground work with her watching. Then I went to get her. They tried to sniff noses and play a bit of kissy face but I would not allow that. Then I had to get all my various lines sorted out (get-down rope, reins, lead rope) and get to the mounting block, while still not allowing kissy face. Mounted up and stood there and again said no to kissy face games. I gathered my reins in my left hand (squaw reining, I guess it is called, where you sort of use two fingers for one rein and two for the other?), had PFP's lead rope in my right hand, and off we went.

At first she was confused about what to do, but I kept putting pressure on the lead rope and when she'd lead up I'd release. We just went around and around in boring walking laps, but she soon got it. We next tried turns - Mac and I would turn in her direction so she'd have to make a small turn and cross over her front legs, turning more on her haunches. Then we'd make turns away from her so she had to walk bigger to keep up. We did some serpentines in this fashion.

Next was changing sides. I stopped Mac with her on the right. I backed him and fed out her rope so she'd stand still. Then I flipped the rope over his head and turned him so she'd be on his left. Then we walked some more circles. This side was harder for her but she quickly caught on and kept up better. Did some more circles into and away from her and called it a day.

Wow, I was so proud of both of them! They got lots of praise and pats and a cookie at the end. Mac was a real trooper for his first time ponying, and pony seemed a little confused at first, but she caught on to the situation soon enough.

I will comment that I love riding with a purpose. I mean, I love riding, but Mac really seems to get more interested when he has a job and we've got something to do (like cows!). It is so interesting to me - when we're just riding to ride (not on trails, but practicing in the arena), he just seems not that into it and it is sort of a mental challenge to get him to that place where he'll be "submissive," if you want to put a dressage term to it. Today he was right there between my aids. I could use my legs to steer and he was totally right there. He didn't feel like he was leaning on one shoulder, he didn't feel like he was laterally unbalanced, he just seemed *right there*, ready to do whatever was needed. It was awesome! And we only walked!

I think I'll do this a couple days a week and mix it in with my other ground work with Princess Fancy Pants. The goal in a few weeks would be to go for short trail rides around my property, but we've got to establish the basics first.


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