I am fortunate to now be working with my third licensed Fell Pony stallion. This one is my homebred four-year-old Willowtrail Black Robin, and this week has been especially rewarding because I’ve sat on his back each day. For me, it is always a special thrill to sit on a pony’s back for the first time. I won’t start asking him to move with me on him until I’m confident that he’s okay with me being there and that he’s listening to me. We’re very close to that point.
As I’ve worked with Robin, I’ve been reminded of working with my first stallion, Midnight Valley Timothy. My friend Doc Hammill, the workhorse clinician specializing in gentle horsemanship, commented in a phone conversation the other day that so many horses he sees are inattentive. That word started bouncing around in my brain, and I began seeing where my ponies demonstrate inattentiveness when I’m working with them. Then, recognizing that I have some responsibility here, I noticed when I’ve been inattentive, too. I have found that stallions especially are very observant and notice when I’m not focusing my attention on them, so they then become inattentive as well.
For a good portion of Midnight’s first year with me, when he was still not mature enough to ride, I walked him to pasture each morning and back each night. Looking back I was very strict on these walks about not letting his gaze wander or his attention be distracted by other things and not letting him play with the lead rope or get nippy. I circled him if he wanted to speed up, and I disengaged his hindquarters if he got too rambunctious. When things got really exciting, I backed him down the road to our destination. At the beginning and usually in the morning when he was hungry, it often took us twice as long and at least twice as many steps to get to pasture, but over time we developed a solid relationship, and he became well-enough behaved that I felt confident taking him to a stallion parade where we demonstrated our on-line skills before an appreciative audience.
Today Robin and I turned a similar corner. We’ve had some sessions with impressive airs above the ground and twice the speed on circles that I was asking for. Today, though, he was light and responsive, changing gaits only when I asked, and starting to understand that we could have fun together moving about instead of him moving about on his own agenda. It’s an important milestone in our journey toward ridden work. I’m very excited.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012