My ten year old student, Saskia, has her very own new pony, Robin. Robin is like a beautiful little fairy horse, light and springy on her feet. She likes to make her own decisions. That’s a good thing! Sometimes people describe their horses or ponies as “stubborn.” We can offer these ponies decisions to make and activities to do that will help them feel empowered and engaged. With a creative approach there is nothing for a pony to rebel against.
One day on the way back from a play day in the ocean Robin was determined not to get in the trailer. (Perhaps she fancied herself a sea horse). She blew up, reared and banged her head on the trailer door while loading which inflamed the issue.
How did Saskia and I help Robin to volunteer to walk into the trailer without a lead rope the next day after her accident?
Saskia and I didn’t break a sweat in our lesson. Actually we laughed quite a bit. And the laughter was very important in keeping our energy light and inviting for Robin. Would you rather get in a car with a stern, angry driver yelling at you or some laughing ladies with sparkling eyes?
The rules were like this:
2) Have fun. If the lesson wasn’t fun, it was over.
3) Be creative. Think of activities that might inspire Robin to participate.
4) Don’t make the lesson all about the trailer. Do other things too.
5) Reward lots. Rewarding involved petting, praise, walking over to eat grass, and eating treats.
6) No grazing without consent in the field. Grazing was a privilege and not the main activity.
7) Good ground manners. Robin had to be respectful of Saskia’s space at all times.
Even though Robin had smacked her head on the trailer door the previous day she walked in by herself, completely relaxed and trusting after 35 minutes of stress free playing around. A portion of that time was not spent at the trailer at all!
Saskia had the trailer set up in a field and she also had numerous objects placed around the field ahead of time. We had brightly coloured balls of various sizes, a spinning pin wheel, hoola hoops, wooden spools and a rolled up foamy to play with. (Note that in Robin’s case she is a brave pony and none of these items were scary to her. If the items had been terrifying for her that would have been another lesson.)
Every time Robin expressed interest in an obstacle she was rewarded. She received rewards for putting her nose or her feet on any obstacle. That included the trailer ramp. She was rewarded for looking in the trailer windows too. Robin became very good at this game and was keen to touch the balls and the rolled up foamy. She even touched these objects if we weren’t focusing on them.
We started putting the obstacles closer to the trailer and even in the trailer. If Robin wanted to touch a ball she had to step up on the trailer ramp to reach it or put her nose through an open window.
We kept the treats in the trailer and would bring them out to reward her for anything good that she did. Soon she was following us back to the trailer to see if she might talk us into giving out treats for free.
It didn’t take long before Robin stepped fully into the trailer all of her own accord.
We quit the session and then Saskia replicated this lesson over the next few days until the trailer was a non-issue.
This weekend Saskia was riding Robin in the costume class at the exhibition. How did she get there?
In the trailer of course! Have a fun time with this lesson and let me know if you have questions.