January 16, 2023

In Which the Gang Goes Ponying

It's been a while since Mary could make it out to the barn, but two weekends ago we made the most of it by ponying Disco for the first time!

But first, Annie learned how to move the good shavings out of the way to get to the pee spot <3

And don't worry, she got some riding time too. Look at how well she sits in the saddle already!

I don't know when the "right" age to starting ponying is, but I'm sure I waited til the right time to start it with Disco. It wasn't until recently that I felt like he understood work enough, respected human bubbles enough, and was capable of NOT playing with Connor for long enough that ponying would be a success if we tried it. I still expected some shenanigans even still though.

...and I could not have been more wrong.

He was...perfect. 

We set him up for success in a couple of ways. One, he understands now that the surcingle and pad mean "work time", so I put them on him as a signal that this was going to be work and not play. Two, I decided to put Mary in the saddle and me on the ground. Mary has better reaction time in the saddle than I do, and she hasn't had as much experience handling him on the ground as I have, so it was a logical choice.

And of course, Mary was also the right choice to run this show because of what a good horsewoman she is. She broke it down into a dozen tiny steps, each done on both sides of the horse so each eye/half of the brain had a chance to see and understand the process.

First we walked them alongside each other, gradually getting closer.

Let's be honest, this was as much or more about getting Connor comfortable with it as it was about Disco learning it. Connor was more uneasy about all this than Disco ever was!

Then we stopped and she slowly worked Connor closer and closer to him, around and around while Disco was standing still, stopping occasionally.

Connor, for his part, thought this was all very suspicious but he played ball. He was very offended when I had to swing the whip at Disco, though!

Next she introduced him to the stimuli he might feel while being ponied, rubbing a Dressage whip over his body before graduating to touching him from above.

Disco: Curious. Connor: Tolerating this shit.

And finally after a good long while, we were ponying. As the ground person, I was only there in case things really went sideways, Mary had full control of him the whole time. 

You could see him concentrating, trying to figure out this new game, trying to figure out how and when to move, coming to understand that when he hit the end of the line he needed to move forward, and when Connor moved, he moved.

Connor had his Suspicious Spooky Ear on Disco the entire time, lol.

Basically the only disobedience the entire time that Mary had to correct was Disco putting his nose in her bubble, being curious about what she was doing up there. She'd push him away, and if he didn't get the memo, he got a swat with the blue sparkle star crop (that Mary bought me as a joke in college like a decade and a half ago, lol. Who knew she'd be starting my own baby with it all these years later?) 

You can clearly see him testing boundaries, finding one, going "Oh, okay," and then going back to being compliant in the below GIF.

Since the first time ponying went flawlessly, I fully expected him to start testing boundaries the second time, when we revisited it a week later with Leah. Connor was always like that with new things: sort of overwhelmed and ultra-compliant the first time, then the second time he'd spend the entire session scheming and testing ways to get out of the work.

Who, me?

But once again, and this time with me in the saddle for the first time, he was...perfect. And this time moving as much or more off of my voice commands than simply following Connor.

In some ways, Disco is lazier than Connor. I think he's going to be physically lazier and not as reactive to stimuli. But in others - mentally, mostly - he's got so much more of a work ethic than Connor ever has. It keeps surprising me, but at this point, I guess it shouldn't.

Good ponies.


  1. So cool to see him coming along! I ponied Ben off his pasture mate the other day and he was much less well behaved than Disco (predicted by the fact that I did not do the ground work that you did).

    1. They're all individuals too! I'm starting to realize Disco just isn't prone to being that naughty and is somewhat lazy, which helps.

  2. Dare I point out that Disco makes his big brother look little?

  3. Brothers doing work together! What good boys!