I was apparently in a hurry that day and neglected to follow the instructions for feeding treats to ponies that I always give visitors. “Put the treat in the palm of your hand and make your hand as flat as possible.” No, I had the treat between finger and thumb, and when I fed it to the pony I’ve owned and loved the longest, she grabbed my thumb as she bit into her treat.
In the weeks ever since, as the dark mark on my thumbnail became more and more prominent, I’ve taken to calling my mistake a bad handoff. It’s American football season now, so the term has a little more relevance than it did those many weeks ago when I sustained my injury. And while my own football career ended many decades ago (I have crooked fingers as evidence of poorly caught balls), calling my mistake a bad handoff makes me chuckle. Now whenever I am unsuccessful getting a treat into a pony’s mouth, I call the mistake a bad handoff because it so easily brings a smile to my face.
Another funny thing about this injury has been the pain. It hurt some at first, but at that point the nail looked perfectly normal. Then when the nail turned its most impressive color, it didn’t hurt at all. Now as the discolored nail has nearly grown out and lost its color, it’s hurting slightly again. With time I know it will completely heal, so I’m not worried about it.
Other than the reminder about doing handoffs of treats properly, this minor injury has also made me aware that ponies’ behavior changes with age. The pony that gave me my black thumbnail would never have bit me like that a few years ago. I’ve noticed that when my ponies pass the quarter century mark (I’ve had two now), the way that they take treats changes. I used to get away with bad handoffs with these ponies, but just as their care changes as they age, so does how they receive a treat. Beware bad handoffs!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2017
More stories like this one can be found in The Partnered Pony: What’s Possible, Practical, and Powerful with Small Equines, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.