The difference between the Professional vs Amateur in most horse show by-laws state that you may not be considered an Amateur or Non-Pro competitor if you received money for training (horses), showing, or instructing another person within a certain time period (usually the past three years). When our neighbor recommended me to someone in the area as a driving pony trainer, I didn’t even think about how that might affect my show status. Realistically, training driving ponies versus competing with my full size horses probably isn’t what most full size breed horse associations had in mind. Then again, if you have the skills to train your own horses (or the miniature satanic variety) or other people’s, that may be exactly the type of person they want to keep out of amateur divisions.
I’m currently working on training my 3rd and 4th driving ponies which will make 4 ponies trained in less than a year plus all of the work I’ve put into my full size horses. No matter how many horses I train, or how many people I assist, I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a professional. For one, it’s not my day job (as much as I might wish that it would pay as well as my day job). Secondly, I don’t have the competitive streak it takes to make it in the higher levels. Third, even though I know a lot, my execution of said knowledge sometimes leaves much to be desired.
Tonight began my first foray into “professional.” No money has changed hands at this point, but I have agreed to cart train a pony for someone other than myself or immediate family. Transporter, our friend in the livestock transport business, recommended me to someone that was looking for pony training services in our area. Transporter had seen my two trained ponies in action and watched our training journey via Facebook. Of course, Facebook only shows the highlight reels of training, and watching that would give you the impression I know exactly what I’m doing. I guess in someways I do, because it took half the time to train my second pony as it did the first. Much of the reduction in training time can be attributed to pony personality, but a fair amount of that time is the result of the experience I gained the first time.
I started two new little devils this evening. I use devil as a term of endearment, but one of the creatures did drop and roll mere minutes after I attached a lead to his halter, and then rolled again when I tied him up while I went to sort out his harness. This evening after work, I went to evaluate my new training prospect, a mini appaloosa gelding named Apple Jack funny enough (If you are new to this blog, I too have a pony named Apple Jack). I’m officially a pony training professional after this guy. He will be the first pony I have trained for someone else.
My first pony training job is going to be a blast. The property where Apple Jack lives is beautiful, and the owners are true animal lovers. I feel honored they asked me to work with Apple Jack. I was very upfront about my training experience, and that this is more of a hobby than profession for me. At the very least I could explain their harness to them, knowing exactly how difficult it is to find harnessing details as a newbie. So we began the first steps of training.
After evaluating Apple Jack’s training level, we were able to skip ahead to ground driving with a halter. Previous owners had already taught Apple Jack the basics of lunging which is the foundation of my driving training method. The gelding was a total sweet heart and quick study. It only took a few minutes, before he was walking in front of me and yielding to rein pressure. After several circles in both directions Apple Jack was beginning to soften and able to perform a few figure eights with progressively lighter cues.
Like most ponies new to the ground driving process, he wanted to wheel around and face me. After spending his entire life as a pet and lead line pony, the concept of walking in front of a human is foreign to him. By the end of my visit, Apple Jack had made significant improvements. His owners are sitting in on the training sessions so they can work with him in between my sessions. The owners are hopeful that eventually Apple Jack can be driven in parades and by a child. It’s important that they understand reasons for each step of his training. They will need to know how to trouble shoot when I’m not there to assist them.
After finishing up with my first trainee of the night, I was off to work my own animals. Now that my own Apple Jack is working consistently and has several successful trips through the neighborhood behind our farm, it is time for Moonshine (aka Dixieland Delight) to begin driving training. Moonshine and I have been working on groundwork, lunging, and pony tricks since November. So she’s starting off at the same point that Apple Jack # 2 is, ground driving with a halter. It will be interesting to see how close their training timelines track with each of them starting at the same point tonight. Moonshine did not pick up the halter ground driving as quickly as Apple Jack #2. I really didn’t expect her to, because I have a sense that Apple Jack #2 is more of a people pleaser than Moonshine.
Moonshine did make some progress with her Spanish Walk tonight. We’ve been working on it inconsistently since December. It took her a while to get the concept of striking out, but tonight she was offering both front legs and I added another cue to accompany my voice and whip cues. The end goal is for her to walk beside of me and step in sync with my legs when I step forward. She had several good maneuvers and we ended the night with success on both fronts, halter ground driving and Spanish walk.
I was hesitant to take on training a pony for someone else, but after meeting Apple Jack #2’s wonderful owners and figuring out how to fit one more horse into my training schedule, I’m super excited! If I have two more ponies trained by July, I’ll be well on my way to exceeding the equestrian goals I set for myself. Despite training set-backs in January and February due to illness and weather, I’m on schedule and in some areas ahead of plan. Either I’m really dedicated or I didn’t challenge myself enough in my goals, but overall I couldn’t be happier! It was a great night!