Clicker Training

The Chincoteague Ponies take to Sledding

Finally this past weekend I got a chance to do something I’ve been waiting to do for a while now! With some snow that stuck around long enough for me to enjoy it I lugged one of my snow tubes to the farm to go sledding with the ponies!

The Chincoteague Ponies go Sledding // Painting Pony

We rigged up a make-shift harness with an old breast plate and an elastic wrap to keep it tied around their middle. Now if your horse is already accustomed to pulling a cart than pulling a sled isn’t much different, however none of our ponies have ever pulled a cart.

Having already exposed all three of our chincoteagues to dragging objects behind them (old grain bags, tarps, etc) we figured they’d probably take to pulling a sled too. Boomerang was the first pony we brought out because he’s probably the most laid back and willing.

All it took were a few clicks and rewards to reinforce him for pulling the sled (which I did by walking on the ground with him first) and he pretty much knew the drill.

The Chincoteague Ponies go Sledding // Painting Pony

Eventually I hopped on him bareback and asked him for more. Pretty soon he was cantering around happily – in fact he was so ok with it that we eventually broke out the snowboard too!

The Chincoteague Ponies go Sledding // Painting Pony

I love how the clicker training I use with my ponies has prepared Boomer so well to try anything. When I reward him for his efforts he’s so willing to give me all he can – positive reinforcement goes a long way!

The Chincoteague Ponies go Sledding // Painting Pony

Minnow was next and despite being a little cautious about the sled at first he was very willing to pull along a passenger. Minnow will always try his heart out for me, and I had no doubt he’d be willing to pull the sled if I asked him.

Blitz took a turn with the sled too, and my mom even hopped on him bareback (something she hadn’t done since she had her accident while riding bareback with him several years ago).

We had so much fun that now we have something to look forward to the next time it snows!

Have you ever been sledding with your horses?

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Boomerang Learns to Sit

Boomer is one of those rare ponies that will do just about anything for his “person”, combine that with the fact that he’s pretty fearless – makes the things he can accomplish (in a short amount of time) quite amazing.

So last week I decided I wanted to teach Boomer to sit on some beanbag chairs I had been saving since I was a kid – just for this reason. He had already had some practice targeting his rear end to things, but I had never fully gotten him to sit on anything from a stand-still.

Boomer the Chincoteague Pony Learns to Sit // Painting Pony

After a few short sessions over a period of 3 days I had him successfully sitting on his bean bags. He was very proud of himself once he figured out what I wanted and now he doesn’t even want to get off of the beanbags.

Boomer the Chincoteague Pony Learns to Sit // Painting Pony

As he progresses in his training I will slowly remove some of the beanbags until he can hopefully just use one to sit on.

Next he’ll be learning to shake hands while sitting on his beanbag! He’s such a cool pony!

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I Workout – Chincoteague Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Minnow has been in training for the past few months as I’ve begun teaching him new tricks and a new skit for Pony Penning 2012!

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Minnow especially loves this time of year as he LIVES to perform and learn new tricks. He’s a total ham even when the only audience is me, Ammo the Dachshund, and my camera.

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Minnow’s 2012 Pony Penning Skit should be really fun – and we can’t wait to debut it at the Chincoteague Pony Centre this year.

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

We’ve been sharing bits and pieces of Minnow’s new act on our Facebook Page, but if you want to see the entire performance you’ll just have to make the trek to Pony Penning this year (or book us for your next event).

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

We’re also going to be working on a new DVD featuring several of Minnow’s favorite performances that will be available for purchase for those of you that won’t be able to see Minnow in person. Once we have that available we’ll be sure to share it with everyone!

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

In the meantime though, you can check out our online shop where we not only have a collection of paintings, but also the Trick Ponies of Chincoteague DVD that features all the ponies and one of Minnow’s earlier performances.

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

And now, here’s a few more photos of what’s been going on around the farm lately….

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

Chincoteague Pony Minnow trains for Pony Penning 2012

We hope to see you at the pony swim this year!


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Workout Pony

If you follow us on Facebook then you may already know that Minnow has been working on learning some new tricks. Most of these are in preparation for Pony Penning 2012 as I’m teaching him some new skills for a brand new performance.

Now, you may remember Workout Barbie – well this is Workout Pony! And Workout Pony is way way cooler!

minnow the workout pony

We’re still in the planning stages of our performance and I have lots of ideas for new tricks, but I thought I’d share a video of our first training session with Minnow’s barbell. It’s important to note that this video was shot after I had spent about 10 minutes working on the skill with clicker training. Yes only 10 minutes!

As you can see on the video he has two skills he’s learning – “lifts” and “curls”. I was actually quite shocked he picked it up as fast as he did and he already knows the cues for each skill. As we continue on in his training we’ll work on duration and I just finished making him a more permanent barbell that looks a bit more realistic.

pony workout gear

I’m really excited about all the new tricks we will be working on and it will be so much fun to showcase the new performance during Pony Penning.

workout pony

workout puppy

So, anyone else teaching their horses new tricks this spring? Have any ideas for new tricks for Minnow? We’re always open to suggestions!

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Boomerang competes at the MGAA MA#1 – bitless and treeless

Over the weekend I packed up Boomerang and headed down south to Maryland to compete in the MGAA Mid-Atlantic #1. It was the first of the mid-atlantic mounted games series for the year and we were excited to attend.

chesapeake boomerang competes in mounted games

Boomer and I were dusting off the cobwebs a bit as typically I give him the winter off due to being pretty busy at my shop – so this was sort of a “getting back into the swing of things” competition for us.

chesapeake boomerang competes in mounted games

Boomer was the only pony at the competition to compete in a Bitless Bridle and Treeless Saddle – and you will also notice our treat bag hanging from his saddle, used when I am clicker training him during competition – because the training is never done.

chesapeake boomerang competes in mounted games

I think one of the common mis-conceptions about treeless saddles is that many people think that without a tree the saddle won’t be stable on the horse’s back. But, all you have to do is watch me play games in it to prove this wrong. All weekend I was leaning off the saddle like a monkey, and vaulting on from the ground.

chesapeake boomerang competes in mounted games

I’m in love with my freeform saddle for so many reason, but mostly because it is the most comfortable ride I’ve ever had, for me and my pony. And as much as treeless saddle are rare in the mounted games arena (in fact I believe you are not allowed to compete in treeless saddles if you ride with the USMGA organization – why, I do not know!) Bitless bridles are probably just as rare.

chesapeake boomerang competes in mounted games

I think with equine speed sports especially probably a lot of people think you won’t be able to control your horse without a bit when it’s in racing mode. Now Boomerang may not be the fastest pony out there, but he wants to run towards the finish line just like the rest of them. Because I took the time to clicker train him a really nice stop, and to respect my seat and leg aids just as much as the rein pressure I am able to successfully compete him in his dr. cook’s bitless bridle.

Many riders in the US now compete in hackamores – yet these have a much different way of steering/stopping the horse by using sensitive pressure points on the nose. Bitless Bridles use painless and even pressure to help guide your horse in the direction you want to go and does not interfere with the horse’s breathing.

And while I personally am an advocate for the bitless bridles I do believe that using a bit or not is a personal decision that most times depends on the horse too. Not every horse may be a good fit for a bitless bridle and I think it just depends on what works best for each animal in the most humane way possible.

You can check out more photos from our weekend of games on our Facebook Page. And make sure you read Ammo’s recap of the weekend’s events here and here.

And finally, here’s a quick video I put together of Boomerang having a blast competing.

We hope to make it to some more MGAA competitions this year – and for anyone who is interested in getting started in the sport be sure to take a look at our upcoming competitions at Iron Horse Farm.

You can read more about mounted games here.

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