A Tail of Two Ponies, A Case Study in Training…Days 13 through 15 Apple Jack

This is the fifth installment of my pony training journal. For those of you just joining, you may want to go back to Day 1 for the full picture. Long story short, I’m training two different ponies with different experiences and levels of training to eventually pull a cart. We’re currently on the ground driving phase of the process. I’m keeping this journal as a way of comparing the progress between the two.

April 25, 2019…Day 13 for Apple Jack

Leading Apple Jack with the travois before attempting to drive.

Because Moonshine belongs to me and lives on my property, she was a little bit ahead of Apple Jack in training due to scheduling conflicts. The past week and a half, I’ve been busy with show prep of my full size horses, and have not had a chance to work her, but did manage to get in a few driving sessions with Apple Jack.

Driving nicely…

Today Apple Jack graduated to travois work. The travois is two long pieces of PVC pipe connected to a shorter piece to simulate the cart shafts. I’ve seen different set-ups, but I prefer the pony to drag the travois on the ground. This gives the pony a sensation of cart shafts down it’s sides while making noise as the PVC drags on the ground. I typically don’t spend alot of time on the travois, usually just a few sessions for noise desensitization before attaching the pony to something (like a tire or pallet) with weight to drag.

Apple Jack was pretty anxious initially. He did not want to stand to be attached to the travois, and then he shot off when he first heard it. It only took a few strides for him to calm down though, and we were working nicely until I drove him over a rough patch of concrete and gravel. The PVC reverberated with a hollow knocking/dragging sound as it bumped over the concrete causing Apple Jack to initially spook. He didn’t bolt, but pranced when he speeded up and made contact with the bit. On the second pass around, he had figured out that a scary sound was associated with the concrete, and refused to step onto it. When Apple Jack ignored clicking sounds, I gave him a little encouragement in the form of a flick of across his rump with the end of the reins. By our third pass he had settled and did not hesitate to cross the concrete.

This little patch of concrete makes for some scary noises…

Once Apple Jack was settled with the travois (which only took about fifteen minutes), we tied a milk jug containing water and metal washers to it for added noise. This was a little scarier to him, but he settled after a few passes around the barn area dragging it.

Apple Jack with the added noise and weight of the milk jug with water.

April 26, 2019…Day 14 Apple Jack

Dragging the scary milk jug over the scary patch of concrete.

IHeartArabians (aka Apple Jack’s owner) was not available for his second session with the travois, but because time is running out on us and he will most likely get a week long vacation due to the weather forecast next week, I worked him alone. We did what we usually do, when I’m the only one working him and went into the back pasture to explore some more. He really seems to enjoy exploring the back pasture, and worked very well. A very uneventful day.

April 29, 2019…Day 15 Apple Jack

The weather held out for us, so IHeartArabians and I met for another travois workout. Apple Jack stood quietly to be hooked to the apparatus, and after a short warm-up, I passed the drive lines over to IHeartArabians. Not only did the two of them do great, but she was able to drive Apple Jack into and out of the run in shed in the side pasture. He is usually very apprehensive about entering the shed when in full harness. There is no reason that Apple Jack would need to enter a tiny shed when attached to a cart. The exercise is more of a confidence/trust builder. If he is willing to do something scary, because he trusts his driver, Apple Jack will be better pony for it!

Today was a successful training day, and I can tell that IHeartArabians is pleasantly surprised at how quickly the pony has progressed. I can see that she has more confidence when working with him as well! Both ponies in training have had the exact same number of working days. Moonshine is a little farther along, since she has been pulling weighted loads, but Apple Jack is more laid back. He will not need quite as much work with the weighted loads as Moonshine is requiring. My goal is to have both ponies hooked to the cart with a passenger by the end of May. The Texas heat will make day time training virtually impossible come June, and having them both comfortable with a passenger before then will make everyone’s life easier!

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