Resorting to Tier 2 Horsemanship

High spirits in the face of a snowstorm

High spirits in the face of a snowstorm

What is the best way to move two stallions and a pregnant mare around the barnyard? Definitely not the way I did it late yesterday. I had to resort to tier 2 horsemanship skills to get it done. At the end, all were safe and eating peacefully while I was shedding clothes after working up a sweat.

My tier 1 plan was a good one. Accomplish the swapping of two stallions and moving the one mare after the entire herd had finished their midday meal and was basking in sunshine. This usually finds everyone quite mellow, and since sunshine has been sorely lacking the past few days, it seemed an especially good strategy.

Instead, I got hung up in the office and didn’t get outside until late, when the next snowstorm was moving in. Snowflakes were in the air, the wind was blowing, and everyone was expecting to be fed. By the time I’d moved one stallion temporarily to the round pen and moved the pregnant mare to a larger paddock, I had the entire herd running and kicking up their heels and whinnying in excitement. Definitely not tier 1 horsemanship at all!

In an effort to calm spirits, I put out hay for everyone. This strategy reduced the excitement everywhere except where the stallion was in the round pen since that location was highly exposed to the approaching storm and also had a clear view of the rest of the herd, so he had seen all the excitement. I set about moving the second stallion, and he did really well until we had to pass the first stallion in the round pen. High spirits are contagious, so when circling didn’t keep my charge from rearing in excitement, I took to backing him, another tried-and-true tier 2 technique, though a little challenging in slush and snow. We were able to get to the gate and into the target paddock without either of us losing our composure or tripping in the poor footing.

Next it was time to rehouse the stallion in the round pen. He has an amazing ability to trot in place or mimic walking speed at the trot. Sometimes I have a hard time telling what gait he’s in. So we went up the driveway with the second stallion running the fence beside us and me trying to keep my male charge at a walk but I couldn’t tell if I was successful so I just kept him at my speed. This worked well until we had to pass a pen with a single mare in it. I didn’t know she was in heat until she ran towards us, turned, and sprayed urine in our direction. That behavior did the opposite of calming the spirits of my charge. A half-rear had me calling on tier 2 again, and we backed our way a good distance before turning and making it to our destination. After I latched the gate, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Only then did I allow myself a small chuckle; thank goodness for tier 2 horsemanship!

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013

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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