Posted by: shannonc | May 13, 2009

Pony Rolex!

So we’ve talked about my great embrace of the weenie approach to reschooling the pony.  The Kisses pony, that is.  Return to square one.  Do groundwork.  Teach pony to stand, be polite with his feet, accept grooming and blanketing quietly, load onto the trailer.  Take pony places, sometimes just to hang out.  Hack pony alone and in company.  Do slow flatwork, emphasizing response to leg, rein and seat, straightness, and correctness.  Try to work over poles or a very small jump or two frequently – almost every ride – in an effort to bore him half to death.  Do not let the pony trick me into pulling him down to a fence and letting him get behind my leg when he makes a bid, even if it means walking over jumps or walking most of the approach.

So the pony report card, overall, is pretty good.  Not perfect.  Pony nearly removed the skin on my hand the other day at Apple Knoll when he decided he was going to get loose because THERE’S GRASS OVER THERE.  Yeah, about that groundwork.  No way was I going to be able to hold onto the pony – he put all 800 lbs into the effort.  And although he always seems to self load on the first request at home, he still frequently needs a little session of “here I am, listen to me, I give directions…yeah me, over here” when he has to get back on in a strange place (go figure…I thought the way home would be easier).  And now that we’re working more on the canter, he wants to fall onto his shoulder again in the trot.  LOL.

But for the purposes of this post he’s a wonderful little pony because this is a jump brag.  Just to recap (it makes me glow with that wonderful feeling of improvement over time!), when we last saw the pony xc schooling on Talk to the Hoof, he was at Lockwood, where I nearly got myself dumped pony-style after making two mistakes, the bigger of which was fodder for a whole week’s worth of lessons (I make a mistake, students suffer!) which I baptized Don’t Trust the Pony.  Everyone learned how to stay in the backseat without chasing, how to slip and regather the reins, and how to channel their horses like a tube of toothpaste from their feet through a chute made with their hands, yup, all because Shannon trusted the pony when she shouldn’t’ve.

In keeping with the weenie approach, after the scene at the ditch at Lockwood we found the little pile of rocks and walked back and forth, back and forth until the pony was entirely secure, then we walked through some water and called it a day.  Next time back, we did all the same little jumps, this time without incident, and added one bigger one, which wasn’t just a bigger jump but also a light-into-dark fenceline question.  At Apple Knoll we kept mostly to little logs and the pony demonstrated that Relaxation 1.0 was in the process of installation – he didn’t make a bid at anything, and we started trotting more approaches, stringing more jumps together, and even cantering a few.  Then yesterday we went to the Groton field to school with our friend Sarah and her wonderful pony Buckingham.

The Groton field is full of tons of jumps built in the weenie style:  they have a weenie brush box, stone wall, railroad ties, doghouse, hay bales, a pretend ditch built with mulch, and logs of all persuasions (including birch!).  They have a bank, which I thought was too big to jump down or up, but okay to run across.  And they have a graduated line of tire jumps, none quite little enough to be weenie…I think the smallest ones are about 2’3″.  The fake ditch has a real ditch next to it, about a BN ditch, not wide but a little deep, and built with light colored wood.

We warmed up over some little logs and some more little logs, and then worked in everything else.  The pony was trotting in and cantering away quietly, although I could have hoped for more steering.  He wasn’t going anywhere fast, he just wasn’t really steering well from my feet.  We have taken a few steps backward in the steering dept, will have to check that out.  Part of the problem is probably that I make such a huge fuss over the pony after every single jump and that is time I’m not giving him much direction.  Part of it is that he loses suppleness in his neck and poll – I can pull, and he doesn’t go faster, but he isn’t slowing down or changing direction either.  If I let go, he keeps going along at exactly the same pace.  It’s pretty cute actually, but I do need to fix it.  The consistency of his pace is something a little kid is going to completely love someday, I just need to finesse it a bit.

So our two big moments.  One, the tires.  Pony was going so well I took a deep breath and decided to give this challenge a try.  I had memories of barrels from last year rattling around in my head – pony would not go anywhere near them.  Not. Doing. That.  I backed the barrels down to a crossrail with barrels on the sides, we got through that, quit there and haven’t tried anything with the barrel look since.  Barrels aren’t tires, I don’t know what the connection was in my brain, they’re both round maybe.  Anyway we have navigated *past* some tire jumps on our xc schools and hunter paces, and they always get the hairy eyeball from the pony, so adding to the mental rattling of barrels was the vague thought that I may really regret this pointing-the-pony-at-tires decision.  But they were within the size range of what we’d worked up to schooling, and I can’t be chicken forever if I hope to produce a brave pony, so what the heck.  Jump a log pile, circle pony around and initiate positive self-talk:  Shannon, please do not look at the tires.  The pony takes advantage of you when you look at stuff.  So here we go…

Pony:  *head UP*  What? Those?

Me:  yep.  Those.

Pony:  are you sure?

Me:  sure.

Pony:  if you say so…BOING! 

Four feet leave the ground, and four feet land.  All at once.  On the other side of the tires.  Huh.  What do you know.

Me:  GOOD PONY!  *Madly patting*  Now, again, but a little calmer please.

Pony:  okay.  SPROING! 

Me:  Pony.  It’s two feet high, not three.  But I’ll take it!  *More patting and fussing*

Pony:  *all puffed up*  I’m going to Rolex!  Bring it!

Okay, Mr. Not Lacking in Confidence, how about this ditch over here.  Fake ditch first…*Pony trots through*.  Now the big one…

Pony:  uh-uh.  No thank you very much.  No.  *Pony stops straight, goggling at ditch*

Me:  *gluing eyeballs to treeline* You can.

Pony:  *undulating like a wave underneath me*  I don’t think so.  There might be pony eating demons down there.

Me:  *nudging and clucking*  Maybe, but I have a feeling you aren’t going to touch them!

Pony:  SPROING!

Me:  *to self* what’s with the goddamn springs?  I gotta talk to that trimmer the next time he comes…*patting and telling the pony he’s wonderful*

Pony:  again?

Me:  yep, one more time.

Pony:  okey dokey!  Hang on Mom!

And so finishes the story of the pony whose head barely fit through the stall door when he got home.  :)

Missing Chicken Pony.  Reward offered.

Missing Chicken Pony. Reward offered.

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Responses

  1. hehehehehe Watching the deer jump from the back was very entertaining :) hehehe


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