I worked on ponying Princess Fancy Pants yesterday and set up my video camera to get some footage of how it went. We just ponied around and the walk for a while, doing circles and changes of direction. In theory, ponying should be easy, and I suppose that once the three of us get the hang of it, it will be easier. But there's a lot that's going on in such a simple, boring-looking exercise.
First, Mac has to be good. The horse you're riding has to be well-behaved and not try to kick the horse it is ponying. This is to me a "dominance" or leadership exercise. Mac is the leader of my herd. He will not hesitate to back his butt up and double-barrel to get someone to stay away from him. So while I'm riding him, he must listen to me and over-ride any annoyance at the other horse and mind his manners. He also tends to be interested in the ladies. This was actually my biggest worry with PFP, because she's so darn cute and probably sexy, too. So this is an exercise again in him minding me and not flirting and trying to act studdish around her. After that, he's got to do the basics of following my aids and going in the direction I tell him to go - forward, back, side to side.
The next thing that's going on is I've got a lot in my hands. I've got reins attached to Mac (this day he was in the hackamore) and a lead rope attached to the pony. While the reins are one loop, there are two sides (obviously), so I've got to manage those in order to be able to give signals to him (no wonder turning with your legs is such an important skill to have - if you can only steer with your hands and you've got other things to do with your hands, it is kind of a mess!), and I've also got to manage the lead rope in order to tell PFP to keep up or slow down or turn.
Then there's the pony to manage. Trying to keep the right pace is hard. Sometimes she gets too far ahead, sometimes she gets too far behind. It is something that we'll just keep on practicing until we get it right, then we'll practice some more (this was only the second or third time I've done this with them).
So that's all to say that while you're looking at this boring video of us walking around, there's really a lot going on!
The next video is of me on Mac working with PFP with the flag. Again, this looks boring, but in the beginning I also had a piece of tarp attached to the flag handle (it fell off halfway through) due to an earlier Scary Tarp Incident that I'm trying to help her get over. During the Scary Tarp Incicent, I had put a tarp out in the arena for her to see and get used to from her paddock. She watches Mac when we ride, so Mac and I rode over it and it was no big deal. Then I brought her in the arena and introduced her to it and she was doing great - until she stepped on it and got herself into a tizzy. So now I'm combining the flag and a small piece of tarp. Then I'll introduce a bigger piece of tarp - and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But for now I just want to be able to touch her all over with the flag and tarp piece without having her get really scared.
In this last video it is probably hard to see what I'm doing. I've got the lunge whip and I'm swirling it over their heads, around their bodies, around her legs, around her belly, along her back and butt, in front of her feet, etc. Again, not too exciting, but just another thing for her to get used to.
That's Paddy you can hear screaming in the background. We also have two ravens who have a huge nest in the rafters and they make all sorts of noises and fly in and out of the arena.