It all started when I went to get my Fell Pony mare Lily. I was short of ideas on how to make our session interesting for her. I’ve found that if I can surprise her with something new and fun to do, she’s much more willing to engage in my training agenda. But when I got to the gate, I still hadn’t had any inspiration. Fortunately, just being around my ponies often provides what I can’t find alone, and sure enough, within a few minutes of being with Lily, we were trying something new and unusual.
As we left her paddock, I threw the lead rope over her neck and asked her to follow me at liberty. We’ve been doing this often recently. It’s a fairly ‘safe’ test of our relationship, as there’s deep snow everywhere, so she’s not likely to wander off to find something to eat (though one day she did detour to flirt with Apollo.) This time she stayed right with me, trotting when I did, stopping when I did. Then I added a new twist. I lowered my head to the ground. She tried a few things to see if they were what I wanted, then I pulled down on the lead rope. After her head came down to my level, I raised up and asked her head to follow mine, rewarding her when it did. After about five repetitions, she got the idea without a hint from the lead rope. It was cool! We tested it about half an hour later on our return to her paddock. At first she didn’t follow me, but then she remembered, and down came her head. Cool again!
When we got back to her paddock, Mya and Torrin were in high spirits trotting around because the weather was changing. After I released Lily, Torrin trotted by, so I started trotting after him. Mya then followed me. The three of us did one circuit, after which I’d had enough jogging on soft snow. Torrin completed his second circuit and came to me, happy to have played along. Very fun. I haven’t had time to play with Mya and Torrin much recently, so we all really appreciated this short spontaneous game.
Today I didn’t have to come up with an activity with which to engage Lily, as this week’s ‘Can You’ from the Horseman’s Jingle came out, so we worked on that. Lily and I played at liberty on the driveway, but first I lowered my head to the ground. Guess what? Hers followed! Cool!
© Jenifer Morrissey