Choose Your Adventure: Pony Style.
How do you decide a young horse’s discipline? Conformation? Intelligence or confidence level? Owner’s goals?
I bought my pony when he was 11 years old and an established hunter champion. I grew up riding in the hunter/jumper world and our area is rife with equestrian facilities dedicated to this discipline. Often, however, I will ride my pony Western, which I’ve taught him over the years. Especially, when the seasons changes I need a little deeper seat.
Horses are predictably unpredictable. Each season with horses brings a fun, new adventure. Winter is brutally cold and the ground hard. Spring is allergy season for me and makes for a playful pony. Summer is hot and humid with insects galore, reducing our riding time and presenting with general malaise. Fall, however, is my favorite. What’s better than brisk mornings, spooky leaves falling, and wind up their bums?
Ferrous has had a fun week. He’s muscled up nicely after the Covid-19 lockdown atrophy, and my slow and steady progress with him has truly paid off. He’s more balanced muscularly, better aligned in his top line, and his tendons and ligaments strengthened.
I arrived at the barn and tacked up with the goal of a nice, leisurely walk around the ring since returning from a sprained ankle (I wore wedges and literally toppled over while walking on a flat surface). When we got into the ring there was a tiny cross rail set up from a previous lesson. We’d been working on ground poles over the spring and summer, so I thought- what a great treat for us both?
Ferrous is a hunter-type and rather a cute one at that. When we play at liberty in the ring he often will free jump and he does have scope!
Once my little red roan realized we were trotting the cross rail he became beautifully forward rather than the pokey beast I saw over summer. We practiced cantering down the long side, transitioning down to the walk or trot over some Cavaletti poles, and changing direction. He was perfect and very, very happy to be playing with jumps again, however small.
When he began to canter to the cross rail I figured, “why not?” and gave him his head to let us both enjoy a little stretch. After all, he came right back when asked to slow down.
Then, I jinxed myself. My daughters were there and I wanted my little one to watch one last time. With her eyes on me, and Ferrous the happiest I’ve ever seen, ears forward and alert, we trotted to our line. Except we didn’t just canter to the jump, we barreled to it. I could NOT slow him for the life of me and two strides out I decided it was better to go with him then risk a refusal or imbalance by getting in his way. After all, I was in a Western headstall and saddle.
I knew I’d made a big mistake.
I don’t love going fast in most instances, with the exception of a nice gallop along open terrain. What scared me most, however, was that I had no control. None at all. My pony was determined and I was along for the ride. This had never happened to us before even on the trails where he wanted to go faster and we would argue.
We took the jump a little fast, a little high. We landed, we got our correct lead and I thought, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Famous last words. Not only did I jinx us again, but remember that recovering sprained ankle?
Ferrous threw his head down and gave four or five crow hops. I’m referring to them now as his end-zone dance. He was so damn proud of himself. For all my timidity, I sat them. I was pretty balanced and just went with it! I survived by first crow hop ever. He finished and took a deep breath, I took a deep breath and smiled at the other rider watching, but then it happened.
Spoke too soon. Ferrous wasn’t done. He gave one last crow hop and jumped to the side. Off I went, rolling and getting back up like a gymnast.
Thankfully I was okay as was my recovering ankle. Fortunately, Christian, a young rider at my barn dubbed “The Pony Whisperer” had been dying to ride Ferrous and he got the opportunity to give him a little schooling aka spanking.
The Pony Whisperer he certainly was because in 10 minutes, Christian nailed my stubborn pony’s personality perfectly, calling him “a little stinker”.
Ferrous is a little dominant, a little stubborn, and lazy. He makes his rider work every step of the way. I’ve become so used to him and his tricks that I don’t usually notice anymore unless he’s being particularly difficult. I love him so much and yes, I could have chosen an easy pony but I love our relationship. It makes him listening and responding to me that much more worth it in the end.
I’ve ridden him a few times since but decided that perhaps we need to take the jumping slowly or get our trainer to school him. He loves to jump and certainly doesn’t do it enough with me.