Reaping Rewards

The summer pasture is finally ready for my ponies.   The grass has grown, and the fence is fixed.  Fells Restar Mountain Shelley III and Willowtrail Spring Maiden were the first beneficiaries.   

With Shelley and Madie going to summer pasture regularly, there will be less need for our morning walks down the driveway.  I have been taking the girls down the driveway to a small meadow and turning them loose, letting them run and graze their way back up to the house where their pen is.  Since ‘Training Time is all the Time,’ I’ve been working with Shelley on these walks from the ground on various things.  One was to mount a block with her front feet.  From there we progressed to her standing on my work sled.  And then treating the work sled like a bridge and walking over it.  None of this was much of a challenge for Shelley.  We also worked on the beginnings of cues for our ridden work.   This, too, was easy for Shelley, so I did a short round pen session to see how ridden work would go.  No problem there, either. 

A willing but unphotogenic Shelley on the work sled

Since it’s easiest for me to ‘train’ while I’m accomplishing other things, I began asking Shelley to carry me down the driveway rather than me leading her each morning.  First, I tested lateral flexion to make sure she’d give me her head in case of emergencies.  Then I tied her lead rope through her rope halter to make reins.  Since she’s a little too tall for me to jump on bareback at 13.3hh, I then led her to a mounting block and hopped on.  Then I asked her to walk down the driveway, stopping occasionally to make sure that we had a common understanding of ‘whoa.’   Despite the distraction of Madie running through the woods and around in circles and my dog chasing squirrels and my husband’s chainsaw felling trees nearby and undoubtedly the occasional smell of mountain lion since there’s one in the vicinity, Shelley took all this in stride, getting better and better each morning. 

Now that Shelley and Madie are going to pasture, there’s no need for me to take my morning walks that have evolved into rides with the girls.  I miss them and I miss having the girls here all day.  But I feel grateful to have reaped such huge rewards from the time we spent together.  It was a thrill for me to ride Shelley and for her to accept the idea so readily.  At some point when it fits into my routine, I look forward to progressing Shelley’s and my ridden work further.  In the mean time, I’ll continue to treat all the time we spend together as training time, knowing that I will reap more rewards in the future.

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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