Posted by: shannonc | March 17, 2010

Pony’s first haircut

The pony and his little pony demons had a summit week. 

Anyone need a nice horsehair pillow?

Imagine my abject terror at contemplating body clipping one very fuzzy pony (is that a pony or a goat in the field?), when only last year he stopped trying to drag me out the door whenever he spied the teeny, tiny baby whisker clippers in my hand.  The ones that make almost no noise at all.

It took a few steps for me to desensitize the pony to clipping his face, ears and legs.  After the initial sniff and “I guess that’s not going to work” explosion, I backpedaled:

  1. To running the clippers over him while they were powered off.  Then,
  2. I ran them over him while *I* made clipperlike noises (I know, where’s the YouTube of that??).  When that was okay,
  3. I turned them on and laid them flat against his shoulder so he could feel the vibration.  Finally,
  4. I started on his legs, then under his jaw…
  5. Accompanied all the way along with copious patting, praise and treats whenever he was good.

He improved pretty quickly, actually, and by the summer having his points done was no bigger deal than having his face brushed.  But still, body clippers are biiggger and noisier and much more vibrate-y.

In the end I think I was more nervous than the pony, so it was a good thing I wasn’t the one doing the clipping.

I got my first clue that I was anxious when I hitched up the trailer.  I have been hitching up the trailer maybe four times a week since the beginning of Feb – at this point it’s almost on autopilot.  As I get close to the ball I jump in and out of the truck, leaving the door open, to make sure I’m lined up. 

On clipping day, I did just that…except I hopped out the open door having forgotten to put the truck back in park.  It was still in reverse.

I beelined it from the ground, under the steering wheel, and jammed on the brake pedal with both hands. 

The truck knocked the trailer off the wood chock stand, so I had to crank it to full height to lift it up enough to be hitched.  Heart hammering away.

This was a good start.

I fetched the pony, patting and reassuring him (that is, me) that I can, in fact, drive the trailer and he shouldn’t fear for his life.  I stuffed a bottle of Ace, a needle, and a syringe in my pocket, and off we went.

I’ve never used Ace on the pony before.  He was drugged up last summer to have his teeth done, but we didn’t use Ace.  So even though it would have saved time and been easier, I didn’t want to put it in his system at home for fear he might be sensitive to it and keel over in the trailer or something.  The downside of that plan is that I had to get the Ace in his mouth in a strange stall.  (The needle was just for getting it out of the bottle).

Getting the pony on board with a syringe worming process has progressed something like the clipper steps above.  In his previous life he had paste in his grain, I think, and before that I have my doubts he was wormed at all.  I only paste twice a year because I use daily wormer, so he hasn’t had all that much practice.

The first time he saw the syringe in my hand he snorted at me heartily, ripped the lead rope away, and proceeded to run around his stall, mowing down anything in his way:  buckets, people, piles of hay, whatever.  I mentioned, right, that the pony barges when nervous?  A chain over his nose helps absolutely not at all – it makes him more anxious and upset.

The pony has me well trained in methods of positive reinforcement.

What worked for me was a daily regimen of walking into his stall, saying hi, sticking my finger in the corner of his mouth so that he opened up and chewed, and then copious praise and sugar.  After a week or so of this I was able to worm him without a problem by doing that first and then slipping the syringe in.  The feel and taste of it doesn’t seem to bother him very much – it’s the anticipation that Something Is Going To Happen That I Don’t Understand that gets him totally unwound.  He is very consistent in this so he has trained me well to introduce and prepare him for new things as best I can.

Which of course, I failed to do in the matter of Ace in the strange stall.  The pony is smarter than I am.  I should have started prepping this last week.  Even so, he was pretty good.  He didn’t break any of my fingers or give me leadrope burn – it just took me a few tries to get him comfortable.  With me at least he doesn’t seem to run around anymore, he just puts his head in the air and gets tense.  (He’s also starting to accept correction from me verbally, which is kind of cool.)  The Ace is supposed to be absorbed through his gums, but I think most of it went into his stomach.  I was just glad to get it into him.

By the time I left the stall, I was pretty sure I was the one who should have tried the Ace.

*Cue Jeopardy music*

20 minutes later, the pony is still looking mighty alert in there.  I go in to investigate.  The head is up and the ears are on super-pricked mode, but the feet don’t seem to be moving.  I call Eliza in to help me test him since he can be a bit snorty about strangers.  Ears stay up, nostrils flare, but feet are planted.  Hm.  Casting doubtful glances at each other, we decide to try it.  The worst that can happen is he goes home with a random bald spot, right?

Well, not to worry.  The pony was perfect.  I was a little surprised, but so happy and really, really proud of him.  He didn’t move a muscle – except when the other horses got their lunch hay (Do I get food too?  Hey, Mom.  Those horses are getting food.  Over there.  Are we done yet?).  He let me stretch out both his front legs so Eliza could clip behind his elbows.  And she did a great job – there’s not a mark on him.  Pony has a/c now!

Thank goodness once the clipping started, my role was just to take photos!

Just getting started

Halfway there!

Silly colored pony gets more silly colored

Happily back home with a new sheet!


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