Monday, June 13, 2011

"Ponying" the Pony

My goal is to ride all three horses at least three times a week. Ideally, I'd like to ride them all four times a week, but between my work schedule and the nasty weather we've been having, that just seems a bit unrealistic.

The one who suffers most from my lack of time is Jaava. I ride Murray to keep the "old guy's" lungs opened up and his arthritis at bay. I ride Maggie to keep her quiet and workable for Dave. Then, if I have time, I ride Jaava. I really enjoy riding her, but I'm a bit big for her stubby pony legs, so I don't like to work her too hard under-saddle (at least that's my excuse). However, when I saw her waddle in from the pasture the other day, I realized she needs more exercise. I vowed to either lunge or ride her every day...even if it's just for 20 minutes.

Saturday June 11, 2011

It's a warm, sunny, Saturday evening. I worked all day, and am now putting the rest of my energy to use riding Maggie. I didn't lunge Jaava this morning, and it will probably be almost dark by the time I get Maggie put away. I start to feel guilty. It was just yesterday that I vowed to give "the pony" more exercise.

As Maggie and I serpentine around the ring at a trot, my mind drifts, and I try to think of ways to make more time for Jaava. Then, I get an idea.

I yell up to Dave who's puttering about in his workshop. I ask him to catch Jaava in the pasture, and bring her down to the riding ring. It's almost supper time and Jaava thinks she's coming in for her evening meal. She seems a little bewildered though when Dave turns her down the hill toward Maggie and me.

Dave leads Jaava up to where Maggie and I are standing in the centre of the ring. Maggie nickers softly and turns her head to nuzzle the pony's nose. Jaava gives a short sniff in response, then turns her head to look up at me. She's likely trying to figure out what's going on. I reach down and take the leadline from Dave's hand. I hold it in my right hand, along with my right rein, and I nudge Maggie with my legs. She moves forward obligingly and I hope the pony will follow. The lead line tightens and Jaava startles a bit as she's tugged forward alongside of Maggie.

We walk like this for a minute or so, then I tell Maggie to "whoa". Both she and Jaava instantly come to a halt. I'd forgotten how well Jaava listens to voice commands. I prepare for us to walk forward again, but this time I say "walk on" out loud so Jaava will know what to expect and won't be unwittingly dragged forward like she was the first time.

We do a few more walk-halt transitions together, along with some turns and circles. The "girls" seem to be getting the hang of this side-by-side routine, so I figure it's time to step it up a notch. I cluck my tongue and say "t-rot" in the same sing-songy voice I use when I'm lunging them. Jaava's hesitant, and likely a bit confused, but after a lag of a second or two (during which time Maggie picks up a trot), her pony legs propel her into the faster gait as well. She has to move at a pretty good clip to keep up with Maggie, even though she's on the inside. This will give her a workout.

After a few minutes, we've mastered this one-rider pas-de-deux, and are managing some nice walk/ trot and even trot/ halt transitions. Maggie seems thrilled to have a companion with her in the ring. Jaava, however, turns her ears sideways and slightly back, and seems thoroughly humiliated at having to trundle along in Maggie's dusty wake. I think it will be awhile before we're ready to do canter work together, but at least I'm able to spend 15-20 minutes exercising two horses at once.

Oddly enough, the one who seems most disturbed by this new training routine is Murray. With both girls in the ring, he has no one to boss around. He whinnies frantically, and, alone in his pasture, he abandons the grass and trots back and forth along the fence line that overlooks the riding ring. I'm not too worried about his behaviour though. When I think about, I guess it's good. This way I'm actually exercising all three of them at once.

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