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Lessons From Lesson Horses: Chapter 5
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Lessons From Lesson Horses: Chapter 5

Meet Lily. Affectionately known to me as "brain damage" because she is the pony I had the unfortunate incident with that led to my TBI. It was not her fault, I just call her that to make myself laugh because in the situation I'm currently in, it is either laugh or cry a lot of the time!

Lesson # 1

Lesson number one for Lily explains where I got her from. I got Lily from my friend Rachel, who I met as a kid when I was taking lessons at a local lesson barn. We became the best of friends very quickly and when her family moved right before high school I believe it was, we always kept in touch.

Lesson number one is that you can make lifelong friends in the barn. Spending time with people who have the same interests that you do is bound to lead to friendships. Rachel and I have kept in touch all these years.

She helped me rehome a horse that I had a while back that wasn't suitable for our program. She also offered me the use of Lily when I asked her if she knew of any good ponies in her area. We were starting our pony ride string and I needed reliable ponies. She delivered Lily to the farm for us all the way from Ohio.

The relationships you can make in the horse world can be some of the best you will find.

Lesson # 2

Some horses just have their own vices that you just have to work with, things that won't go away so you have to work with it. For Lily, it is her ears. She has fungus in her ears, a common thing for horses. It is also commonly hard to get rid of.

Lily also has a scar or wart of some kind on her one ear. It has been there since Rachel got her (at a very young age) and never seemed to bother her a whole lot.

From time to time, it would seem that the fungus in Lily's ears would flare up and hurt her more than usual. Causing it to be harder to bridle her (leading to my injury ).

We have treated the fungus multiple ways and now it seems that she is just overly sensitive to her ears, because she expects it to hurt when you touch them. We just have to work with it. Be careful and aware when haltering and bridling her, making sure people are aware of the issue so they can stay safe. Then, when she has a really bad day, we can always use the bitless bridle, which goes on her more like a halter going behind her ears, making it more comfortable for her and more safe for whoever is bridling her.

Lesson # 3

If I had to put Lily in a category of lesson horse or pony ride pony, I would put her in lesson horse. Though she does go out on a lot of pony ride jobs during the busy season, she is not on the "A" team.

The "A" team pony ride ponies are the ones that anyone can lead, that will walk anywhere, through anything and be unphased. This is not quite Lily. The "A" team pony ride ponies walk off the trailer and act like they have been at the new location all their life.

Lily is always spooky at a new place. Her eyes bug out of her head and she walks sideways looking at things. If you saw the way she looked when she first unloaded, you would doubt her suitability for even the "B" team. I doubted it the first time I took her out on a pony ride job.

The thing about Lily is, once she gets used to the place, no matter how crazy, she is fine. She needs about 15 or 20 minutes to take it all in. That is just how she works. That is just another one of her little quirks. She is quite the princess and she needs time to acclimate to her surroundings before being expected to work. As long as you are willing to cater to that one request she is a quite competent member of the "B" team.

Lesson # 4

Each horse or pony may have certain things that bother them more. Like some don't like things blowing in the wind or bicycles, stuff like that. The thing that really seems to get to Lily is loud noises. Loud noise is something that the ponies encounter a lot at the parties and festivals they go to.

Over the years we have learned tricks of the pony ride trade, one of which is fly bonnets and earplugs for the pony ride ponies to help with the noise. Lesson number four is not to put earplugs in the ear of a pony who is weird about her ears in the first place.

The first time we took Lily on the job and I tried to put earplugs in her ears, she fought it, but since I'm so stubborn, I did manage to get them in her ears. Really, considering it could have been a lot worse. I was very proud of myself for winning that fight. Until that afternoon when it was time to take the earplugs out. You would think she would be happy about me taking them out...nope, she knew I was trying to mess with her ears now and was adamant that I wasn't touching her ears to get the earplugs out. One of them I managed to get out by accident in our argument. The other she had to be sedated by the vet to get it taken out. Luckily, the vet already had a scheduled visit so it didn't cost us an extra farm call fee.

Lesson # 5

Horses are smart about the wrong things. Lily's behavior fluctuates in lessons depending on who is riding her. She is very perceptive and she knows who will let her eat grass and who won't. With some kids, she will trot at 100 miles an hour when asked to canter, with others she goes right into a canter.

Lily is the ultimate lesson horse, not because she is push button perfect all the time. The reason she is so great is that she only behaves herself as well as her rider makes her behave. I don't mean she does anything scary or dangerous, she doesn't by any means do that. She teaches the kids that they really have to be assertive when they ride and always be one step ahead of the horse.

She frustrates them when they don't ride her well enough, but gives them lots of lightbulb moments and helps them build confidence when they learn how to do it right.

Lesson # 6

Don't get ahead of the horse when jumping. If you get in two point too soon and your leg slides back behind you, Lily will slam on the breaks in front of the jumps. Never fails. It is her dirtiest trick of all, and she does it every single time!

Not having a good jumping position and keeping your lower leg under you is a hard part of learning to ride. Jumping ahead (getting in jumping position too soon) is a common riding problem. Lily teaches her riders not to do it because she takes advantage of them if they do and slams on the brakes. It's like she is telling them, you do it right or I'm not doing this at all.

They may hate her while it's happening, but she teaches them a valuable lesson.

Lesson # 7

Lesson number seven is if your instructor tells you to hit the pony with the crop just do it! Lily has her pony moments... Like I said before she will stop at jumps if she thinks she can, she will scrape a kid's legs on a gate post or try and grab grass...All typical lesson horse behaviors. Easily corrected a lot of the time with a well-timed smack with the whip. So when the instructor tells you to use the whip use it!

Lily does not have that much fight in her when it comes to bad behaviors under saddle. It doesn't take much, to get her listening. For some reason though when riders get frustrated it is like they almost don't hear me instructing them to hit her with the whip. Maybe it is because they are afraid of hurting her, I don't know why they don't do it!

All I know is that though little miss Lily can be quite the little Princess, she does not have a lot of fight in her when it comes to under saddle. If she tries something and realizes she can't get away with it, she will go back to behaving nicely right away. So be assertive in the beginning and have a better ride!

The Moral of Lily's Story

Some horses have little quirks that you just have to live with. That doesn't mean that they aren't excellent at their jobs.

Lily is an example of a pony that can do both jobs as a lesson pony and pony ride pony. Not many can do that, but it isn't impossible. We are lucky to have her.

To be a good lesson pony does not mean the pony needs to behave perfectly all the time. Lily is totally safe. She is a great teacher because she teaches her riders that if they ride correctly and are assertive that she will reward them with a great ride.

Lastly, the moral of Lily's story is that in the crazy world we live in that seems like things come and go and are forgotten before we know it, true friendships still last.

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