Nikita really screwed up her mission as a companion pony to the orphan foal. Yesterday she was just being a total pill. Snapping at the baby and charging. So today I organized a little swap. We tacked up King, haltered Twister, and I ponied him the three miles down the road to the farm. Jen (Twister’s owner) followed in my truck with the flashers going to try to keep the traffic from getting too close to us.
King was really quite good. It’s only the second time I’ve tried ponying with him. The first time was with Dressy, and she was ponied (or “towed” as the Standardbred race people call it) rather than jogged in harness for at least the last year or two of her racing career (Dressy was kind of umm… strong in the bridle when in harness, so “jogging” was hard to do). So Dressy knew what ponying was all about. Twister hadn’t a clue. And didn’t think it was really the greatest idea initially. I had to drag him for about the first quarter mile. King, bless him, just dug in and pulled. And he’s bigger and stronger than Twister.
Eventually Twister figured out what it was all about. Luckily that happened before we got off the driveway and out onto the main road with traffic going by. By the time we got to the intersection with traffic lights, I was able to get him trotting with King. Those lights change quickly, and it’s a busy intersection. So we have to move through it fast. Twister was really pretty good for a horse who hasn’t left the farm in years. He wasn’t spooky. But he did keep nipping King. I think he just couldn’t help himself. King was right there, and wasn’t allowed to fight back. The temptation was just overwhelming, and his skin was so close!
Three dump trucks came past us at one point. But neither horse reacted at all. Nor to the school buses. But there was a horrifying bit of styrofoam in the ditch that brought on one of King’s snort attacks. And a dog that ran out a driveway. I was having some trouble organizing all the lengths of rope. Eventually I figured out that I needed to tie a knot in the reins to shorten them up a bit so I could just hold them with one hand if need be.
When we arrived at the farm, Twister was really upset. I’m not sure why his reaction was so extreme. But he worked up quite a sweat when Jen took him into the temporary stall in front of Reno’s stall. He started weaving frantically, and then jumped out of the stall in a rather amazing leap from a standstill. I have never seen Twister jump anything in his life, but he popped over that large straw bale (the great big ones that weigh around 600 lbs) like it was crosspoles for a shetland pony.
Once we got that all sorted out, I got back on King, grabbed Nikita and headed home. Linda drove my truck back instead of Jen, since Jen needed to stay and watch her horse.
Twister had no problem keeping up with King, but Nikita was another story. She huffed and puffed like a little steam train beside us. Short pony legs churning, shooting dirty looks at King when he went too fast for her. To give her credit though, she does lead well. She is much softer on the shank than Twister.
King spooked at a few things in the six miles (and all just little spooks). The styrofoam monster, a radio put out in someone’s garbage, a huge pile of garbage bags, and a rezoning sign. But the mailboxes, construction barrels, dump trucks, schoolbuses, landscape trucks, and speeding cars didn’t concern him in the slightest.
Five years ago, if anyone had suggested I could pony horses with King up and down a busy road… or that I’d even entertain the notion, I’d have written it off as a suicidal and laughably impossible idea. He’s come a long way in the last couple of years.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Twister had worked himself into quite a tizzy. Weaving, sweating, and stallwalking. We broke out the Acepromazine and gave him half a dose. Not sure how much effect it had, since he managed to spit some of it out. But he did improve steadily after that. We put Reno in the arena and Jen held Twister outside the gate. She clicker trained him to be nice to Reno. Each time Twister reached out and politely touched the foal, Jen clicked and treated. Wasn’t long before Twister actually licked Reno. I don’ t know that he actually LIKES Reno yet (though Reno definitely adores Twister!) but he doesn’t dislike him and he’s showing interest in what the kid is doing. Whether it was the Acepromazine or the clicker training (likely a combination of both), Twister was much happier by the time we left a few hours later.
It does appear that Twister likes Reno a lot more than Nikita did at any rate. And Twister is an amiable and very playful soul. Fingers crossed…