This story will make my draft horse friends laugh, my natural horsemanship friends smile, and my pony friends nod their heads in appreciation of how versatile our four-footed friends are.
I recently found some pictures of ancient history in my relationship with Mya the Wonder Pony. They were taken about two months after I got her, over twelve years ago, and long before I started formally studying natural horsemanship or working ponies in harness. Mya and I had already graduated from a bridle to a halter and reins (leather), and we were still using a bareback pad with stirrups that I’d borrowed from a friend. My intent in bringing Mya into my life was to get some help with chores. Yet I had no experience in working horses. In the end, that was a good thing, as I wasn’t constrained by prior knowledge.
The fences on the ranch I was on were in need of repair. In particular, I needed to bring in some poles to finish enclosing the barnyard. Mya and I had already developed quite a rapport riding around the ranch, so I decided to see if she’d tolerate ‘skidding’ poles: I held one end in log tongs and we drug them along as we rode. It was no problem, and we moved a lot of poles this way. Eventually I found a work harness for her so that we could move more poles per trip and because my arm and shoulder and back were strained by the mechanics of the ridden approach. But our start skidding was ridden.
I got a phone call last fall from a Welsh Mountain Pony breeder who had seen something I’d written about working ponies and wanted to know how to get started with her four-footed friends. I talked her through what I do now with Mya, and then I told her about some of the ways Mya and I got started. I shared with her an article I wrote on ‘A Pony-Powered Garden Cart,’ and I talked her through ground driving with a cotton rope harness. I had forgotten about ‘ridden skidding’ though until last week when I finally got around to sending her some information on harness and implements. Then I started wondering if any pictures existed of Mya’s and my start skidding. After some digging, some turned up. What memories they brought back!
I’ve been involved with Fell Ponies now for eleven years. The motto of the Fell Pony Society is ‘You can’t put a Fell to the wrong job.’ Mya, though, epitomizes for me a versatile work pony, despite her Welsh-Shetland crossbred status. We have done so many unusual things together that I will always measure my Fells against Mya’s accomplishments. As Christine Robinson wrote last year in a Fell Pony Society newsletter, ponies are the original ATVs. And Mya helped me learn to ‘drive!’
© Jenifer Morrissey 2011