In an earlier post we had an insight into how Tony the Pony began teaching his new young owner some basic stable manners. She's progressing well for a beginner but there are still plenty of lessons for her to learn when it comes to ridden work. Luckily, Tony is on the case ...!
Tony's owner loves to ride; every day. Rain, snow, hail, gale force winds or blazing sun; nothing daunts her. Tony finds this rather irksome, especially if he's hungry, tired or just not really in the mood for strenuous exercise (or indeed any form of exercise at all for that matter!).
Luckily, there are plenty of ways of teaching his owner that ridden work is much better in small doses: very little and not very often, in fact. Exercise sessions usually take place after Tony's owner comes home from school and have to be completed in good time for her to then do her homework, have her evening meal with her parents and be home well before it goes dark. Tony knows that the more time his owner spends trying to catch him and tack him up, the less time there will be for riding. He is confident that once she has learned this lesson she will give up bothering him with exercise altogether and he will be left in peace to eat his haynet or potter in the field with his chums.
A favourite owner training method used by most equines is to wander around the stable in circles when the owner is trying to put the saddle on; a sudden change of direction being particularly effective just when the saddle is poised to be placed on the horse's back. If the penny doesn't quite drop, waiting until the saddle is in place and then shaking vigorously so as to deposit it onto the floor sometimes works. Another popular technique used by many equines is avoiding the bridle. Tony knows it's important to snuffle gently and lovingly around his owner's eager hand and softly take up the bit (so as not to miss out on any treats that might be offered as a bribe). Then as she goes to place the bridle over his ears, Tony suddenly flings his head up, opens his mouth and spits out the bit (minus treat, obviously). And so the whole process begins again until time runs out and the idea of riding is abandoned until the next day.
If it's a nice day and Tony decides that he is in the mood for a sedate (and very brief) stroll through the countryside or perhaps a gentle bimble around the arena, he will allow his owner to put his tack on. The duration of the ride can then be decided by the length of time it takes his owner to scramble aboard and the subsequent amount of time she has left.
As she is only small and feeble, Tony's owner usually uses a set of steps to mount from. These steps are a perfect teaching aid for an experienced horse like Tony. He stands still as the steps are carefully positioned in just the right place; then waits until his owner reaches the top before sidling off or swinging his quarters away so that she has to go back down the steps, re-position them and start all over again. Sometimes a well-meaning adult is summoned to hold him still while his owner gets on. This does not present too much of a problem as Tony finds the inexperienced and non-horsey grown-ups particularly easy to train. Fidgeting, stamping on their feet, wildly swishing his tail, rolling his eyes and booting the steps across the yard usually sends them sprinting for cover. Such tactics often result in him being swiftly untacked (at arm's length) and given his tea early which is indeed a result!
One day, Tony's owner asked a more experienced human to have a go at getting on. The young lady in question announced confidently that she would not need the steps and would get on from the ground. Tony pricks his ears at this opportunity to demonstrate a more advanced training method. While his owner is fussing about with his girth Tony breathes in deeply, blowing himself out like a little hairy zeppelin. As the interloper attempts to mount he merely exhales, turning around with a look of pained surprise as the saddle slithers around underneath him and the unfortunate "expert" is deposited unceremoniously on the wet yard.
Undaunted, if a little embarrassed and with a damp bottom, the expert tries again this time with girth securely fastened. Tony heaves a deep sigh, waits until she has her foot in the stirrup and one leg swung up in the air, and then sets off down the yard at a brisk trot. Tony cannot help but be impressed at her agility as she hops along beside him for a good 20 metres before finally ending up on her bottom for the second time that day.
Later, as Tony the Pony nibbles happily on his tea, he reflects on how well the human training is progressing. He has vaguely heard the words, "Riding Instructor", bandied about outside his stable by the grown-ups. Whatever that is he is sure it won't be a problem ...!
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