The recent run of very wintry weather has left me lacking imagination for how to spend time with my ponies. My Fell Pony mare Lily and I, though, have managed a few short sessions working on ‘Can Yous’ from Jerry Williams’ Horseman’s Jingle. Though Jerry is in Florida, he recognizes many of us are in less temperate places, so he’s been giving us exercises that can be done in stalls, barns, and paddocks and with tack that doesn’t mind snow or rain.
The first one was ‘Touch it with the tail.’ This involved backing Lily into things, paying careful attention to when she got uncomfortable. She was pretty comfortable with everything since in draft work I’m constantly backing ponies into weird situations. I backed Lily up against a tree branch, then up against the horse trailer, then up against the round pen fence, each time until her tail touched the object.
The second ‘Can You’ was ‘Lift a Foot w/ a Snap.’ I laughed a little over this one, as it was advertised as being appropriate for inclement days. Have you ever tried snapping your fingers with gloves on, or taking your gloves off at five degrees to snap your fingers?! Lily was great about lifting her front feet when I snapped my fingers, but we have room for improvement with her back feet.
This week’s ‘Can You’ is ‘Over a pole one foot at a time.’ Many people in the Jingle found this one challenging, as their poles were all buried by snow. I managed to find a loose fence rail that I could temporarily relocate, but my challenge became open ground. We resorted to working on this one on the driveway when it was plowed, which has been only occasionally as we’ve had a foot and a half of snow since the week began. Jerry mentioned that this exercise will expose all kinds of things about our relationships with our horses, and he was right. Eventually Lily and I got this one, though, including the ‘extra credit’ of straddling the pole, which Lily found easier than walking over the pole one foot at a time on command, pausing between each step until I asked for her to proceed.
Spending time with my ponies always makes me a better companion for the humans in my life. So the best part about these Can You’s is making me get out there with them even when the weather is contrary. I’m looking forward to the next ‘Can You,’ and I’m sure Lily is, too, especially since there’s snow in the forecast for several more days.