Now that the summer pasture is ready for ponies, I have begun the pony shuffle. The pasture is so rich that I only let the ponies on the fresh grass for 2-3 hours at a time during the first week, gradually working up to 8 hours then overnight then 24 hours for several days at a time (until they get too fat!) The summer pasture is four miles from home, so right now I am shuttling three loads of ponies a day back and forth.
There are many advantages to the pony shuffle. All of my ponies are eager to get in the trailer when it is pulled up to their gate here at home. Unfortunately they are also eager to see me right now when I arrive to pick them up at pasture because the insects there are brutal and coming home provides some relief.
Another advantage of the pony shuffle is that I get to interact with each pony, assessing their willingness to be haltered, how their ground manners are, and how they cope with unusual situations. Yesterday, for instance, one of my pony swaps was during a thunderstorm, including drenching rain and lightning striking close enough to be seen but not so close as to be dangerous. I got to see how much that situation put each pony on edge. True to Fell Pony nature, none of them were difficult to handle even in those adverse conditions.
Yesterday morning I had to run to town, and I will admit to a small amount of envy when I drove past pastures with horses that I know are there all day every day for the rest of the summer. Their owners check on them once a day at most. They don’t have to shuffle them in and out after a few hours or even every few days. The envy didn’t last long, though, as I truly enjoy time with my ponies, building our relationship and building their skills. And making sure that they stay healthy on their diet of green grass.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011