It seems that everyone I talk to this April has a story about someone coming off a horse (or out of a carriage) and breaking a hip. A neighbor is among the fallen. I visited her at Sunnybrook hospital last night and said, “My get well present to you is: I’ll go to your farm and trick train two of your horses.”
My neighbor was surprised!
I continued, “Now you need to decide which two.”
Instantly she announced, “Hops, the pony. I’ll have to think about the second one.”
Ah…a pony!!! Finally I get to play with a PONY!!!! I’ve heard so much about them. Years ago I was told, “If you hate a kid, give it a pony.” And “Ponies are REALLY smart!”
This morning I went to the arena and placed a few toys in the small (about ten inches in diameter and a foot high) blue rubber bucket. I also stopped off at the lower barn and cut a few carrots into tiny pieces. I’ve heard that ponies can get FAT. I didn’t want to feed treats that would contribute to this problem.
I drove to my neighbor’s farm, found Ciara (who works for my neighbor) and she introduced me to Hops. I remembered Ron McDonald’s practice of getting close to the horse’s nose and exchanging breath. The pony offered her nose to me through the stall bars and I offered mine. You could almost see her smile. We were off to a grand start!
Now for deciding where to play with her. The stalls in the barn are BIG. That was one option. Another was a round pen about fifty meters away. A third was the arena. I learned that when Hops has hay in her stall she can be very ornery. At that particular moment she was munching on her hay. We decided to try the round pen…the sun was shining, it was ten degrees and there was no wind. What could be more perfect!
Ciara led the pony and I asked a few questions. “What’s she like?”
“She’s lovely when she’s worked on a regular basis. She knows how to drive and is excellent and very well behaved pulling the cart. But, she can be quite a handful. Why don’t you go into the arena a pick up a longe whip…just so that you can establish boundaries.”
“Ciara, turn her loose in the round pen and let her do what she wants. I’ll think about the whip.”
Little Miss Hops hadn’t been outside yet and she thoroughly enjoyed leaping about. She caught the attention of the horses in the paddock to the west. They started galloping. She caught the attention of the horses in the paddock to the east. Those four lined up along the fence, riveted.
After a few minutes Hops slowed down. I reached into the blue bucket and brought out three of the sturdy orange cones, the ones that even Pax can’t break.
I asked Ciara to enter the pen and snap on the lead line while I set up three cones with tiny pieces of carrot resting beside them. I returned to Hops, Ciara unsnapped the lead and the trick training began.
I stood beside the pony and cheerfully said, “Hops! Find it!” I bent over and put my finger next to the carrot. Hops wasn’t sure what to do. I put another carrot piece in my hand and led her nose to the ground. I dropped the piece close to the cone. Hops ate it, found the other carrot, ate it, nosed the cone, then looked at me. I walked to the next cone and called, “Hops! With me!” When she was close to the cone I said, “Find it!” She did.
On to cone three. (Yep, this pony was figuring things out.)
After she finished munching near the third cone I cheerfully called her back to the first one. We repeated the game three more times. The third and fourth time I placed the carrot pieces under each cone. Hops had to push them aside with her nose in order to find the treat. She had no problem figuring out that maneuver.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning’s adventure.