I have been spoiled for years by having a chore pony that always is ready to work, no matter the job, no matter the weather, no matter the time of day. I knew it was going to be tough to ever have another chore pony like her. I admit, though, that I am beginning to have high hopes for Willowtrail Wild Rose, my eight-year-old Fell Pony mare.
I have known for several years that it was possible this would happen. Rose has always indicated she wanted this role; she just needed me to step up to it. Finally all the stars aligned and we began this part of our journey together.
I began accustoming Rose to harness work slowly during the summer when she grew too fat at pasture and had to be at home. I started with ground driving, then added a soft cotton rope harness that I could attach to a tire. When Rose was comfortable pulling the tire, I introduced her to a draft harness, and we’ve been pulling the tire with that. Normally after this stage of training I would move on to pulling a sled and then I would begin doing chores. Sleds, though, can be challenging in the winter here because they can slide too easily on ice, running up on a pony’s heels. I plan to experiment with a chain brake on my sled, but experimenting isn’t something I do with a novice work pony.
Necessity is often the mother of invention. I wanted to keep Rose working , but I can’t abide just putting in time without a purpose. It occurred to me that my manure tubs could sit on top of the tire, so I now have Rose regularly hauling manure to the compost pile. Very purposeful!
Rose has impressed me with her level-headedness. One day when I had her tied for harnessing, snow fell off a roof just inches from her face, and she didn’t even flinch. She’s accepted the many different sounds and feelings of a tire on snow, ice, mud, and dry ground, loaded and unloaded. She even tolerates me when I stumble suddenly on uneven ground, something that has unnerved other ponies. We’re still making adjustments to her Norwegian harness to make sure it allows her to work comfortably and efficiently. The jury is out about whether it is the right long term solution.
It has been a goal of mine since I first bought a Fell Pony to have a Fell as a chore pony. I’ve been offered ready-to-work Fells by friends, but really my goal has been to have my chore pony be one that I bred, raised, and trained myself. Rose will help me achieve that goal. Next goal up: a cart-commute pony. She’s begun pulling my jog cart short distances, so I’m very hopeful!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
If you enjoy stories like this, you’ll also enjoy the other books about ponies at Willowtrail Farm:
What an Honor
The Partnered Pony.
All are available internationally by clicking here.