I may have tormented my poor, unsuspecting pony yesterday.
Friday night while I was at Wal-Mart grabbing an Ethernet cord, one of those huge blow up yoga balls caught my eye.
It was five bucks, and quite frankly, it was five bucks well spent! I blew it up part way, brought it to the barn (where L promptly rolled her eyes at me), finished blowing it up, and gleefully chucked it into the front paddock. The boys all flagged their tails and skittered off. Gus was the only one who went and inspected it, providing us with a few minutes of entertainment as he huffed and snorted around it.
I was itching to get Image out and play with the ball one on one, but unfortunately, a bit of a situation with a rescue pony was unfolding and I wanted to wait until he was gone before attempting to do anything. When Image left B’s, he honestly didn’t seem overly concerned about the fact that he was leaving Murray behind. Poor Murray, on the other hand, was calling and calling for his buddy. I haven’t actually seen him express any fondness for another horse until today. He really did like this little pony, and was a bit distressed when he left. He called a few times and watched as the little stinker was loaded up. I felt bad, but at the same time, that’s life at a boarding barn. He’ll get used to it and I can’t let it turn into a bigger issue.
So, I pulled him out of the paddock and put him into our makeshift round pen. We did some work in there, where I kept his attention with frequent direction and gait changes. Once he was truly focused on me, I went to hunt down the yoga ball, which had blown alllll the way into the far back paddock. Crap.
As I was picking my way across the slushy, muddy, gross mess that is the back paddock, I heard a horse whinny. I turned around, and Image was standing at attention, watching me go. He called after me three more times. Hmm. Not sure if that was because we had just spent thirty minutes working in the round pen together, to the point where I had him locked onto my side again, or if it was residual from the pony leaving. The mushy side of me melted into a puddle of goo, ’cause my pony was calling to me and it was adorable. The other side of me knew that it probably had way more to do with the fact that his pony buddy had left and he was a bit out of sorts.
I retrieved the ball and bounced it into the round pen. Image dodged out of the way and eyed it with disdain. I quickly fetched his rope halter from the fence and began dribbling the ball toward him. Honestly, I was expecting more fireworks than I got. He danced away from me once or twice, but quickly figured out it was nothing worth getting worked up over. I was even able to balance it on his back, and gently bounce it off his sides and rump. I was laughing hysterically by that point. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get out of the situation with his dignity in tact. Poor, tortured pony 😉
L came out and grabbed her two year old Quarter Horse, Radar, and we proceeded to tack up in the barn. After a little bit of ground driving (where I am finally see the “okay, I got this!” relaxation that I’ve been looking for), I played on the mounting block. I wanted him to be used to flexing all the way around when I go to mount, so we practiced that. I pretended I was going to mount with my foot in the stirrup, and I got not response. A+, pony!
I then pulled the saddle off, and leaned over his back with his neck flexed around. Again, no response. I bounced up and down on the mounting block. Nothing. So, I took a breath, and boosted myself onto his back, lying on him on my stomach. He tensed briefly, but did not offer any sort of reaction. I balanced myself there, my weight on his back, for a moment or two, before stepping back down. I repeated this a few more times and the only reaction I got out of him was when I accidentally spooked him with a pat under his belly. Oops. We’ll work on that later, because the fact that I was able to have my full weight on his back without him getting upset was enough for me. Good, good boy!
After all that work, it was time for a bit of fun. Image has a “thing” for big snowbanks, so after watching L take Radar bounding through the snow, I “sent” Image up one of the banks. He didn’t hesitate and gleefully bounded up, over, and back down.
I was prepared to call it a day there, but then L, who I adore, decided it was time to drag out some tarps, grain bags, and a kiddie pool. Image watched from inside the barn, his ears pricked with interest (but no fear!)…so I threw his rope halter back on, and outside we went! Soon enough, he was wearing the tarp like a dress, had all four feet in the kiddie pool, and had a grain bag rubbed all over him. Brave pony is brave, because I only got a dragon snort out of him once.
|Image in his tarp dress. 😉|
I gave him a good grooming after that, because he was a dirtball. Lots of currying later (which he thoroughly appreciated), I had a soft, shiny horse again. He stood quietly in the cross ties while L and I wrestled with Radar, who was being entirely uncooperative about being clipped, despite having been clipped before.
I turned him back out and spent the next hour helping L around the barn — moving the bunny from inside the barn to outside, and beating the ever loving shit out of some ice that needed to be removed. It was honestly kind of fun to slam a hammer into solid ice without holding back…sure got my frustrations out!!
Another really productive day. Getting through to him when he was distracted by his little pony buddy leaving, and having him switch his attention to me was really rewarding in itself. He was calm and relaxed through most of what I asked him to do, and even when he did get tense, I was able to talk him back down. Most importantly, I was able to have my weight on his back without an explosion. That was a really huge deal, because what seems to trigger him when you get on is the weight on his back.
Little steps forward. That’s all I’m looking for at this point!