Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

My newest adventure with Cricket and Bleu is teaching one to pony the other and thereby teaching the other to be ponied.

Mind you I'm not a professional nor have I ever played one on TV.  I'm just sort of making this up as I go along.

It's funny to see them together - they are like two kids in a car on a long trip.  Bleu reaches towards Cricket, Cricket swishes her tail.  My girls . . .

Wednesday, following my farrier appointment, I had the girls turned out in the open paddock near the barn.  I decided to saddle up Cricket and start teaching her to pony Bleu.

With Cricket saddled and ready, I figured I'd start with trying to pick up Bleu's leadline from Cricket's back.  The idea was that if I couldn't get them to stand next to each other without the hassle of lines and reins, maybe ponying wasn't such a good idea.

I managed to get Bleu's lines with minimal pinned ears from Cricket and only a few "mosey offs" from Bleu.  All in all, it went well.  I think Cricket started to understand her "job."  Bleu, while she wanted to be near Cricket, was also respectful of Cricket's "stay back" energy and was a little laggy.  The other thing Bleu missed was "synchronize with the herd."  She totally didn't get that she needed to go when Cricket started moving off.  By the end of the session she was much better.  I dropped her line to allow her to graze and trotted around with Cricket for a little while.

Last night we had another short session in the arena.  I put my bareback pad on Cricket and got on her while holding Bleu's line.  I was so proud of my Cricket.  Yes, she was ugly and swished her tail and pinned her ears and snarked a little.  But I was on her bareback (not her favorite thing) Bleu was too close (another not-favorite-thing) and there were four other horses in the arena.  Six horses in a 60' x120' arena is fairly close quarters for Cricket.  Not once did she actually kick or bite or even open her teeth.

I think this is going to be a good adventure for us.  In trying to manage both horses, I don't over-think what I'm doing and I have to be in charge to stop any of us from being hurt.  I think I assert my leadership better without getting dictatorial and it seems to put purpose to even aimless wandering in the arena.


Susan said...

I'm looking forward to trying this with Pie and Sioux. Now that I have two horses, I want to be able to spend time with both of them when I can. Although, I think that most of my enjoyable riding time will be on Pie. We are so in sync. : )
I'd love it if you got pictures of your process because I can quite picture how you were able to reach Blue's lead from Cricket's back.

Naturally Gaited said...

Great idea, Lisa. I recently saw a video clip of a woman herding two horses around in a roundpen, while leading her horse behind her ("taking him with her"). I've never really tried any multi-horse stuff with my guys. I suspect that it would elevate MY rank within the herd!


Lisa said...

Susan - first, I use Parelli rope halters and 12' leads; second, when I allow them to graze, I drape the rope over their backs. All I did to pick up Bleu's rope was side-step Cricket up until I could pet Bleu without Cricket trying to bite or drive Bleu away. Then I simply took hold of the lead line. As Bleu had stepped over the line near her head, I wiggled the rope and asked her to back-up so I could get the line out from between her legs.

Clare - It's lots of fun. I started with ground stuff - just leading them together, first with one on each side, then with them both on one side. I've played a little with them both on-line. All building up to the idea that I could ride one and pony the other without all hell breaking loose.

Susan said...

Hi Lisa - well, we've been doing a bit of ponying but it's not super smooth. The two major issues are Sioux's sore feet (she's great on grass but sometimes we have to cross pavement or cinders to get to the grass) and since she has sore feet she will start to go slow and Pie freaks out when she goes slow.
I'm going to have to go back a few steps because tonight was sort of disastrous. It was a learning experience but still. . . not good.

Lisa said...

Ponying a horse can be dangerous - mostly because we end up in a situation where we cannot let go of the rope but really ought to do so!

I started with Bleu and Cricket on the ground. Making sure I could lead them together and do things with one while the other waited - sending one through gate, moving one while the other was still, etc. It helps them figure out where my energy is directed so they know how they should pay attention.

I started ponying them in a safe area. In the paddock, if I dropped Bleu's rope, she was going to put her head down and graze; in the arena, she can't get away.

The horse you are riding needs to be comfortable with you in charge even when another horse is near. The horse being ponied has to be able to respond to the feel on the halter and even rhythm from the rope (to stop or back up).

Take the time and be safe (think about what might go wrong and then plan to mitigate the risks) and pretty soon you'll be able to exercise both horses at once.

Susan said...

Absolutely! I've had the disadvantage of having watched Pony Girls doing their job extremely well. The old adage is true, 'Anything done well looks easy.'
While I do tend to let go of the rope when it gets to the end of it, Pie is very stressed. I forget that Pie and I have a. . . hm. . . we have a rhythm of understanding. With Sioux as this other factor I am not able to respond to him nor he to me as we might otherwise be able.
Also, Sioux is at a stage where she requires a high rate of reinforcement but on the ride tonight, Pie was needing reinforcement for being calm. Sioux got jealous. Plain and simple.
Tonight was definitely a set back
I still feel positive, though. Horses, if we're listening, seem to make what we need to do so evident! Love them for that.

Susan said...

oh, also, we can't do this in a paddock or ring as those surfaces are very hard on the horses' hooves. Thankfully, when I do get stuck dropping Sioux's rope, all she does is drop her head and graze.
The real problem is the polar opposite behaviors of my two sweeties.
Thank you for your encouragement. We'll get there. I know it.

Lisa said...

Bleu and Cricket are fairly opposite. Cricket is the herd alpha mare and Bleu is a little more timid. So Bleu is naturally hesitant to come along and Cricket's imposing HQ are just a little threatening. Cricket is used to being the boss when we're riding so she's got a bit of authority. When Cricket gets a little threatening with Bleu, I turned her to face Bleu and then caused her to back up, as if Bleu was driving her back. Seems to help Cricket remember her place.

Of course we need TONS more practice. Seems the longer I do this the more there is I need to learn or do.