The Joys of a Smart Pony

I was all smiles this afternoon when I came in from working with my Fell Pony mare Lily.  We had a short session today due to cold weather, but I was over the moon with how Lily helped me with my two objectives.  We had done one of them before, so I didn’t think it would be too much of an issue, but we’d never done the other before, and I’d only done it once before myself, seven years earlier with Lily’s father.  There are definite benefits of working with a smart pony.

Fell Pony mare Lily with me on the mounting block

Lily was more cooperative than my camera, so I was very happy when my husband appeared at just the right moment asking if I wanted help.  My first goal was to take a picture of Lily standing on the mounting block with me on her back.  She offered this the other day, and it so delighted me that I wanted to have a picture.  Whenever she sees the mounting block, she wants to stand on it, and truth be told it was built for her to do just that.  Only recently when I’ve been backing youngstock have I been using it for mounting.  Today all I had to do was point Lily at the mounting block after I got on, and she did the rest.  But then she wouldn’t stand still on it, and I couldn’t understand why.  She ‘explained’ a few minutes later.  Smart ponies usually explain themselves!

Lily pivoting on the mounting block at liberty

After we got the picture of Lily on the mounting block, I had to dismount to set the camera up for our second objective.  I left Lily at liberty, and she came to check out the camera for a few moments.  Then I watched her head toward the mounting block again and then mount it herself.  This was an accomplishment, but then she started pivoting around it, leaving her front feet on the block but moving her hind legs in a circle around it.  I finally realized what she was doing.  In our Parelli Natural Horsemanship Level 2 On-line audition, this was something we did.  And she had been trying to do it with me mounted, too.  Never underestimate the creativity of a smart pony!

Two weeks ago we had visitors who wanted to meet all the Fell Ponies.  I brought Lily up to the round pen and took off her lead rope, doing a few simple things that we normally do at liberty.  Then I put her out on a small circle at the trot so she could jump a pole along the fence.  She did this willingly, and I asked her to stop.  Apparently I didn’t ask very forcefully because she kept trotting in a circle and she jumped the pole again.  A smile spread across my face and I shook my head, realizing that my smart pony was showing off.  Then when she circled and jumped again, even my visitors were smiling and laughing with me.  Lily did then stop and toss her head, asking for her reward.  How could I refuse such a smart pony!

Lily and me jumping for the first time

My second objective today was to jump Lily over a pole at the trot.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve jumped a pony, and as I said, the last time was with Lily’s father many years ago.  (Remember, I’m a draft pony person, and trotting is really exciting!)  I had no idea what to expect as Lily and I went out on a circle and trotted towards the pole (only about 12” off the ground.)  I asked her to slow as we approached, which she did, and then she lifted smoothly into the jump.  It was incredible for me.  She was so smooth that I found I really enjoyed it.  Which was a good thing because it took us three times to get a photograph!

My visitor two weeks ago has a mare with a temperament similar to Lily’s.  One of the challenges of having smart equine partners is that when we’re not in sync, the lows are really low.  It can be really frustrating trying to do something when our equine is not the least bit cooperative.  But when we have days like today, when we can communicate clearly what we want and get them really engaged, the highs are really high.  Then it is truly a joy to have a smart pony partner.  I spent my chore time musing about what I could build jumps out of.  I’m looking forward to seeing what Lily might offer!

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012

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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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