Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Horse on the Porch

Tomorrow, a prospective buyer is coming from Georgia to see Penny, and she's bringing her trailer with her. So, if the woman likes her, Penny will go home with her tomorrow.

This means it's possible Penny will have her first trailer ride tomorrow. We don't own a horse trailer (first we'd have to buy a new pickup truck that was big enough to PULL a horse trailer, then buy the trailer, and we won't be able to afford either of those things any time soon), so our horses don't get an opportunity to practice loading into a trailer.

As a substitute, I decided to teach Penny to walk up onto the front porch of the old country store building that is on our property. I did this with the colt Sully that I sold last year, and when the time came, he loaded up in a trailer just fine.

Mostly it's not so much a matter of getting them in a trailer. It's getting them used to stepping up onto a platform that sounds and feels funny under their feet, and it's getting them used to being willing to follow you into places that seem strange to them. The front porch of the store works for both those criteria.

Sully would go anywhere I asked him, so he went up on the porch no problem. Penny, being a baby with much less experience, took a few minutes to do it, but she was only confused and worried about HOW to do it. She didn't panic or pull away more than a step or two at a time.

You could see that she was concerned that the strange platform would collapse under her if she stepped up on it. That's just sensible to be concerned about that. But she tested it with her hooves and stepped up with trembling legs.

Then I let her immediately explore how to get back down again. It's very important to horses to know that they aren't trapped. If you let them retreat and try again several times, they get calmer because when they know that retreat is possible, they stop feeling quite so much like it's necessary.

So I let her get back off the porch and come back up on again, from a few different angles, until finally she came right up, completely on the porch and stood there, eating the grain I gave her for a reward. Then I turned her around and she came back off again, easy as anything.

Because she'd done such a good job and been so willing, I let that be the end of the lesson. She was so proud of herself and full of happy confidence that she trotted beside me all the way back up the driveway and back to her paddock.

Considering the whole lesson took place at the very edge of our property where she had never gone before in her whole life, AND she was out of sight of all the other horses from there, AND I was asking her to do something fairly complicated for a baby horse, she did incredibly well.

I was so proud of her!


markmc03 said...

Pretty Penny! It must be sad to have to let such a wonderful creature go but its a welcome sale for you if it goes through.

Lorrie said...

Thank God for old country stores! Sounds like a great idea, and very innovative, given the fact that you don't have a trailer. I'm really enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work!