Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pony play date - tarp work

Yesterday I took Princess Fancy Pants for a lesson. She loaded beautifully and I think I'll back off the loading practice for now. There is a time to focus on something and a time to let something "soak." I think now is the soaking time for trailer loading.

Yesterday the goal was to work on the tarp. I had mentioned to the trainer that the things I wanted help with were mounting (check), trailer loading (check), and tarp work (or really, anything foot-related - pony seems to have a thing about her feet). I told trainer what I've done with the pony and the tarp so far (clicker training, working with a small piece of tarp and moving up to bigger and bigger pieces - throwing a tarp over my head and walking around with the pony, walking on the tarp (me), walking with the tarp under my feet and shuffling it around, getting pony to smell the tarp, getting pony to let me touch her with the tarp, getting pony to chase the tarp), so she started with dragging the tarp behind her while she led Princess Fancy Pants.

All tarps are not created equal and this one was scarier than any other one. Trainer tried a different tactic. She folded the tarp up so it was a narrow rectangle and then put it on the ground with a pole on each long side to keep it stable. The goal was to get the pony to walk toward it and be comfortable standing and facing it.

At first she didn't want to go near it and tried to circle around trainer. But with patience she relaxed and walked up to it. When she'd lower her head to sniff it, then she got a break to do something else.

The something else was this, which she likes to play with.

It is like rewarding a dog by playing with its favorite toy!

Then we'd go back to the tarp, get closer, relax, take a break.

Eventually, trainer put both together such that the ball was on top of the tarp.

And when that was successful, she moved it behind the tarp.

At the end we had a relaxed pony playing with the ball on top of the tarp. Pretty good progress!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

VIDEO: Our first ride in the outdoor arena

Heretofore I've worked Princess Fancy Pants either in the indoor arena (basic ground work, long-lining, and walking under saddle and going/stopping/steering) or on my little trails. I like the trails because they encourage going forward and there's not too much to worry about with turning or circling - we just follow the trail. For our work on the trails we've done walk, trot, and some canter.

Today is a lovely day and so I dragged the arena in the morning when it was still damp with dew, and convinced Colin to pretty please come video me and the pony doing our first official ride in the outdoor arena. Seems like a no-big-deal kind of thing, but the arena has no walls (well, neither do the trails, to be fair) and it is dressage court-sized so there's always a corner that needs to be turned or a circle that needs to be made.

Here's the pony:

She did so well on her right turns! For the short amount of work I did with her in the covered arena, right turns were our nemesis. She leans on that right shoulder so I've been doing ground work to teach her how to bend through the rib cage going right and also trying to work on not popping out over that shoulder when going left.

Granted, she's very young still and so I don't expect too much, but I definitely notice progress! I think I cut out the one spook at the beginning where she notice the neighbor's irrigation going in his pastures. The total ride was about 20 minutes of walk and trot, but I highly doubt anyone but me is interested in that, so I pared it down to about five minutes of video.

We continue to work on trailer loading and had a very successful lesson last week. I'm in talks with the trailer manufacturer about what modifications I can make to the trailer because the butt bar is just a bit too high for her. I'm taking the trailer in next week for an annual check up so I'll see if they have any ideas on something they could fabricate. We also went trailer shopping today just in case....;-)

I noticed that the saddle pad slipped back as our ride went on. This is a new thing, so perhaps she's going through a growth spurt where she's growing up but not out? May try a different pad or combo thereof.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Before and after

I broke down and did Princess Fancy Pants's mane last weekend. Here she is before (note the unamused look on her face).

And here she is after. She is a moving target so hard to get a picture of her when I really want to. She's shedding out so her coat looks a little weird.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ten reasons why I love my pony

In no particular order....

1) She's smart
This pony learns so quickly, and she remembers her lessons well. She also seems to have the ability to mentally transfer work we've done on the ground to work we're doing under saddle. Just today on our trail ride (our second solo trail ride), we did some baby leg yields. She somehow put two and two together and easily did it with minimal aids.

2) She's forward
She's forward without being hot. She marches right along, she goes quickly and easily off the leg and/or a cluck, and she's keen to move out.

3) She's brave
She's the first horse I've started under saddle so maybe this is normal and I'm over-gushing about her, but she goes with me down the trails (off property) without company, and when we come across something on the trail (deer or birds flushing from the brush in front of her), she might have a little startle in place but she gets over it quickly and doesn't act scared.

4) She's a willing partner
Princess Fancy Pants works for me and tries to figure out what I want and how to do it. She puts her trust in me to not put her in a bad position (well, except for the tarp . . . we're still working on that).

5) She's friendly
PFP is a friend in a pony package. She'll come up to me in the pasture to see what's what, she'll follow me around in her paddock while I'm doing chores, and she has a cute nicker to greet me with.

6) She's cute
I don't think I need to explain that one, just look at her!

7) She's got a lot of potential
Maybe I'm crazy, but I feel like there's a lot in there that I'll have fun developing. Her gaits are elastic, she feels good underneath me, she likes to work, and she's smart (see #1).

8) She's hardy
She's a sturdy little pony, she has great feet, a strong back, a nice loin, pretty neck, lovely head . . . I guess I'm getting back to #6

9) She plays well with others
Pony gets along with the boys. She's a little too flirty sometimes, but she's not bitchy and everyone likes her.

10) She's the pony I always wanted! I grew up riding horses, not ponies. Honestly, I don't think I ever rode a pony until I got her! And she's mine, all mine, muahahahaaaaaaaa!

Monday, April 4, 2016

First trailer-out lesson!

The weather is so lovely right now. I scheduled my first lesson whereby I trailer Princess Fancy Pants out. We went to the place where we've gone for a couple play dates and I brought my tack. I didn't know what would be in store for us for our first lesson, but I had some non-riding things I wanted help with, so I mentioned those: standing for mounting and standing on the trailer. The trainer said they are similar problems in that the pony needs to find, and be comfortable in, a defined space.

Since we were already in the round pen, we worked on standing for mounting first. I was to stand on the mounting block and ask the pony to line up in front of me, with her body in the position where I can just get on. It took a few tries, but it totally worked like magic! Here's what we did. If PFP wanted to walk by me or swing wide or swing her butt out, I was to keep her moving and then ask her to turn around. I was not to let her walk in a circle around the mounting block (this was what I was doing wrong), but to keep her in front of the block. There was no crazy "make her move her feet" aggressive energy. It was just "turn her around and try again." The other part of what I was doing was using my breath to ask her to stop in front of me (this works for us because I already use that as a cue to come down a level from where she is - so canter to trot, trot to walk, walk to halt). Once she did, then I let her just stand there and rub her all over - neck and butt - and tell he what a good girl she is.

We did this for both sides. It didn't take very long. She stood still, relaxed, wasn't fidgety, and I got on from the off side.

Then we just walked around and talked about PFP's balance and where she likes to lean (right front) so we talked about how we would work through that, and it started with some ground work. I got off and we just worked on walking her around the round pen and asking her to move her ribcage over and bend her body through the ribcage. Again, very quiet, no aggressive energy, just walking and bending. We did that for a little while and as time was running out, I asked if we could finish by working on loading/standing on the trailer.

We walked to the trailer and I told her what my issue was. PFP will load just fine, but when I put the butt bar up, she gets nervous, fidgety, and antsy and wants to back off. I was prepared with a bucket of alfalfa pellets, some carrots and some cookies, which I put in the manger. We worked on getting the pony on and letting her eat, but asking her to come off while she wanted to eat, so that it was our idea to get her off the trailer, not her idea. We also worked on just standing quietly and petting her bum when she was standing quietly (just like the mounting exercise). And we also showed her that we wanted her to come off with a tugging of the tail so that we could teach her that only when she feels her tail being tugged is when she should come off. It didn't take too long and she was very good. I got the trailer closed up, then trainer and I stood there talking for a little bit. Pony was antsy at first, but then settled down and was very quiet.

It was a great lesson! I really like the energy and vibe of this trainer - she's very quiet and calm and doesn't have that aggressive energy that some other people have (not speaking of anyone in particular, just some clinics I have done/seen, the trainers exude an energy that I don't really like even though they aren't mean or anything, it is just too much).

Yay, Pony!