Posts Tagged ‘natural horsemanship
Each year our ponies are invited to perform during Pony Penning week at the Chincoteague Pony Centre. This great honor is the main purpose of our trip each year – and something we look forward to.
This year we decided to bring two ponies, the ever talented Chincoteague Minnow and his buddy Chesapeake Boomerang. This was Boomer’s first trip to Pony Penning and his first time ever performing tricks in front of a crowd.
Boomer settled in quite easily, and Minnow enjoyed having a buddy to boss around with him. Minnow quickly took on the roll of head “stallion” and kept a close eye on his younger pal Boomerang.
One of the first ponies they met on the trip was Boomer’s little half sister Juniper, who had been born on the last day of June. Boomer was particularly fascinated by her, and took every chance he had to get close to her.
Juniper reminded me a lot of Boomer, fearless and brave – not much fazed her, even as she plodded around the arena in the nightly shows at the Pony Centre.
When it came time for our boy’s performances in the Pony Shows at the Centre Minnow performed like the pro he is.
Minnow opened each show by painting a special work of art that would later be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Minnow always does his best work while on the island, and he created 8 wonderful paintings that all went off to happy new homes.
Later in the show Minnow came back out for everyone to sing Happy Birthday to him as we celebrated his 20th Birthday. He loved being the center of attention.
Now Boomer had spent the weeks leading up to Pony Penning learning a trick skit that he would perform during the shows. Having never even performed in public before let alone learn an entire performance, this was a completely new experience for Boomer. And honestly I wasn’t sure how he would react.
Boomer’s skit was based on the idea that he was headed off to Trick Pony School, and as his teacher I had lessons that he had to learn. Here you see me holding up a photo of Misty shaking hands with Marguerite Henry, and then asking him to mimic the photo by shaking my hand.
The first time Boomer entered the arena things seemed to be going well, and then the crowd let out a cheer and applause and he about jumped out of his skin – bolting to the gate. I was able to get him to return to his pedestal to perform each trick, but every time the crowd clapped he would again bolt to the gate.
Amazingly Boomer performed every single trick I asked him to – including his spectacular sit on the beanbag trick, he was just clearly frightened of the clapping. But about the 3rd performance in he started to get over it and by the end of the week he could of cared less that people were cheering and clapping for him.
Boomer got so into his performances that he knew the order of tricks that were coming before I could even ask him to perform them. I would have to rush to get his beanbags set up for him before he decided just to sit on the ground!
I was so pleased with how he did, and I think everyone loved his big personality. He did a wonderful job showing just how smart and talented these Chincoteague Ponies are, and I’m sure this is just the first of many performances for Boomer.
On our last day on the island Boomer got to compete in the Pony Show’s Extreme Pony Race – I think he was a bit surprised to enter the arena this time with a jump in front of him, but he did well – and only threw in a few small bucks! I was relieved he didn’t decide to show the crowd his bronco bucking skills!
By the end of the week I was so proud of both of my boys. Thinking back on how far both of them have come, and how talented and amazing they are makes me proud. I love being able to share these amazing ponies with people and I hope everyone that gets to meet them think they are just as special as I do.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to share all about of experience at the epic Chincoteague Pony Swim, and you can read all about the Beach Walk in yesterday’s post.
You can check out all the photos from the beach walk, pony swim and auction HERE. They are also available for purchase!
Last weekend we took a trip to Double Rock Farm to attend a beginner Ranch Sorting Clinic with Blitz and Boomer. You might remember that we’ve been to Double Rock before, where I introduced Boomer to his first cow.
Both ponies picked back up where we had left off last fall (before my knee surgery) and I think they both enjoyed bossing the cows around.
I noticed that Boomer really likes being able to move the cows with some speed, so I’m very much interested to try some team penning soon – which is a little bit more of a faster paced sport.
Below is a video of Boomer’s first time on the cows that day. I find the hardest part in Ranch Sorting is thinking ahead to where that cow might end up when you start to move it. But I know this will just improve the more we’re able to practice…..now if I could just talk my parents into getting some cattle on the farm!
In 2008 Minnow was diagnosed with Ringbone, essentially a form of equine arthritis, it is a bone growth in the pastern or coffin joint of a horse. 5 years ago I took Minnow to New Bolton Center, an internationally renowned large animal hospital, after initial x-rays and visits from my vet could not determine why Minnow had suddenly gone lame.
When I discovered he had High Ringbone, I was in shock, and saddened that his riding and competition carrier with me was over at the age of 15. Initially I tested out joint injections with Minnow, which didn’t help much – you can read more about that journey HERE. So that left me maintaining the pain he had with bute on the occasions he performed or was a little extra sore. He was retired from any strenuous activity, including riding.
Over the years we tried various supplements, with little to no improvement, in the hopes to make him a bit more comfortable. So when Minnow turned 20 this year I decided to take him back to New Bolton in the hopes of finding some better options in managing his pain in the coming years.
I wanted to write this post to document the findings of our visit, mostly for my own records, but also to help anyone else struggling to help a horse with severe high ringbone.
Our trip to New Bolton started off with a lameness examination, which it was determined Minnow is 3 out of 5 degrees lame on his left front. On that left front he has bony enlargements that you can both see and feel on his pastern region. Neither of his feet are sensitive to hoof testers though.
Minnow gets around fairly well on the farm, and he will run and buck with his brothers on occasion – it’s just hard to see him limp knowing that he has some degree of pain. After his lameness examination we decided to get him radiographs – because there wasn’t much the vet’s could recommend without seeing how much his ringbone has progressed.
Once the radiographs were up we were able to compare them to the ones we had taken in 2008. It was immediately noticed that Minnow had a loss of joint space on the inside of his left pastern joint as well as bony growth. The vet told us that Minnow’s body is trying to fuse the joint in order to stop movement which is causing pain. This can take years, maybe 10 or more, and is a very slow process.
Sadly with this significant arthritis in the pastern joint, there are not many options for Minnow’s reduced pain. They could surgically fuse the joint, but this would require several months of post-operative care (and the need for a cast) and may not make him pain free – just more comfortable. At 20 years old I just didn’t think this was a good option for Minnow and likely would cause him more distress and pain in the long run.
The vet recommended we give him 1 gram of bute leading up to any performances or if he seems exceptionally sore, and to limit his movement by maybe turning him out in a smaller space. She said any supplements likely won’t improve him much and any effects would be short lived. She also said we could experiment with different types of shoeing or boots, but that is a whole trial and error process and there may be nothing out there that would help him.
I asked if his pain would continue to get worse as he gets older, but she said that most horses with high ringbone have higher and lower degrees of pain throughout their life and some just have their pain stay about even.
It was a bit disheartening to learn that there wasn’t some magical solution that could make Minnow more comfortable, but I sort of expected this outcome.
I’ve decided to look into different types of shoeing/pads for him – to see if there is anything that just might make him feel a little bit better. I’m hoping to document the process on the blog by video taping him before and again with each shoeing option. I’m going to try Ground Control Shoes from the Natural Farrier first – although I’m not entirely hopeful, I figure it can’t hurt to try!
I know that someday the time will come that Minnow may be too sore to perform and train with me (something that he loves more than anything), but I also know that he will let me know when that time is here.
On a side note I noticed this framed picture hanging on the wall in the billing department on my way out. The note reads:
Because I knew and loved Stormy, and still do, I’d like to help pay her hospital bill. My best wishes to Stormy’s owner, Mike Pryor, as well.
Please relay my gratitude to Stormy’s surgeons for their skills and generosity.
July 24, 1993
Stormy developed a tumor on her udder in the early part of 1993 and had surgery done at New Bolton. She recovered and was able to make her last Pony Penning appearance that summer. Stormy passed away in Pennsylvania, far from her Chincoteague home, on November 24th, 1993. (From Misty’s Heaven)
Last weekend we took Blitz and Boomer to the Bucks County Horse Park to compete in a Judged Trail Competition. You get to ride through the park stopping at obstacles along the way where they judge you on your performance.
We attended the event last year as well, which you can check out Boomer & Jet competing here.
We had a blast on the trail, this year I thought the course was a bit easier than last years though, but it was still a fun time and great experience for the ponies. We filmed some of the obstacles – but missed a few along the way, mostly because we forgot!
Hope you enjoyed watching the boys compete – we’re already looking forward to next year’s event!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.