The pony shuffle here at Willowtrail Farm is underway. This is the period of the summer when I am trailering ponies to my leased pasture for parts of each day to get their systems accustomed to green grass so that (most of them) can be out 24/7. It is a great time to become better acquainted with each pony’s personality as we halter, lead, load into the trailer, unload, lead, and release. Even the youngest, Willowtrail Mountain Honey, at six weeks old, is loading into the big-noisy-metal-box-on-wheels willingly, an accomplishment I never cease to find amazing.
Just like the pony shuffle two years ago, the ponies are eager to be the ones chosen for loading into the trailer at home and unfortunately at the other end of the day at pasture, too, because the insects are once again nasty. Energy is predictably high at the start of the process, as the ponies anticipate green grass. And then at the end of the process, I usually have very mellow ponies on my hands (except if there’s a thunderstorm threatening, which always inserts some unpredictability into the moment.)
Yet there are differences every year from previous years that are important. For instance, there are senior citizens that I no longer ride between pasture and trailer. And there are ponies that I am newly able to ride, saving wear-and-tear on my legs. And there are youngsters who have never traveled without their mothers in the trailer, and to make it an even newer experience, they’re traveling with ponies with whom they’ve never been in the horse trailer before. Youngsters, then, require extra attention to make sure their trips are positive ones.
While the pony shuffle is underway, I make a lot of trips that would seem to be identical. Yet I have found that every one is indeed unique, whether because of weather or haying equipment in an adjacent field, flapping plastic on a passing truck, a mare being in heat, or a foal testing its independence from its dam. I was once asked to write a book on training ponies, and I know a lot of people like formulas for horse training. The pony shuffle has taught me, though, that the most important part of training ponies isn’t a formula, it’s a mindset. To be successful partners for our ponies, we must have the proper outlook in order to engage our ponies in the task at hand no matter the variations we’re presented with. Like it or not, our ponies demand this of us. I’ll be exploring this topic further in an upcoming issue of The Partnered Pony™ Inquirer. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll join me.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013