There’s a new world out there for miniature friends

For the last two weeks I have been telling you about the two minis that I am working with, Poochie and Shmigley.   I have never had the opportunity to work with minis until the last couple of years.  I find the experience quite exciting.  It is fun to work with little horses as well as the larger version.  I am finding that they too have the same kind of mind set that the larger horses have, except that they look like dwarf horses.

Poochie and me.  (Photo by Tina Craword)

Poochie and me. (Photo by Tina Craword)

Shmigley and Poochie are enjoying the new change to their lives too.  Through my training, they’re seeing a whole new world.  It was like opening a door for them to see beyond their pen and small pasture.  I have taken them to two different indoor arenas, vet visits (that is not fun, but it is a new experience), other arenas to run to their little hearts’ content, and I am giving them a whole new friendship with me.

Shmigley is a very timid horse who never wanted to be caught.  He loves treats but would turn his little behind to anyone who tried to catch him.  We had to corner him and then he would reluctantly give in.  When I had him in a huge arena where he could gallop around, after a little romp he was very hard to catch.  Poochie would just walk right up to me, but Shmigley would act very timid and whomever was trying to catch him would have to start crawling around with a treat held with arm stretched out, hoping he would get close enough for anyone to grab this little Houdini.

But now with this new-found relationship, he is sticking his little head through the railing of his fence, nickering at me and wondering if I am planning on playing with them.  Now I look forward to playing with them, it is fun playing with them as well as my bigger horses.

However, while I am playing with the minis, my mare Cheyenne loves to poke her head out and watch us play, flashing a big grin here and there while trying to steal a treat.  My thing is that I usually play with the minis when my horses are eating.  But Cheyenne hears us playing outside her stall and pokes her head out and watches instead of eating a whole lot.  My other mare Gypsy takes the opportunity to eat Cheyenne’s food while Cheyenne is busy watching the entertainment.

The rewards these four-legged friends offer … priceless.

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The benefits of ‘listening’ to each individual horse

I was talking last week about working a mini pony named Poochie.  However, he does have a brother named Shmigley.  This week I am going to talk more about Shmigley.

Shmigley (Photo by Amy Miller)

Shmigley (Photo by Amy Miller)

This mini has been very challenging, to say the least.  It is not like he is mean or a very disobedient little guy, he is actually very obedient.  The problem comes from him being very spooky.  I could work with him one day and the next day it seems as if he is back to square one.  However,  I have been taking natural horsemanship lessons that are helping me to connect with him more.  We are also looking into the fact that he might be deficient in some minerals or something else in his diet.  We are still checking this out.

The first area of discipline is being able to catch him without forcing myself onto him, but instead to teach him that coming around me is an enjoyable experience.  I start out by having Shmigley run around in an arena.  I run with him at his pace.  If he starts to slow down, I slow down,  If he speeds up, I speed up.  And if he stops, I stop.  If Shmigley looks at me at all, I turn my whole body and look away from him.  If he starts to approach me, I continue to stand and have my body turned away from him, and I am usually looking away or down toward the ground.  However, if he looks away from me then I start walking in his direction until he looks at me and then I stop and turn my body and glance away.

At first, it takes time to teach any horse this game.  When Shmigley would look in my direction but not come forward, I would just sit on the ground and not move but still have my body pointing in another direction.  I then hold my hand slightly up with my palm down, in a non-threatening way, so he could reach out and smell it.  I can be sitting like this for quite a while.  But if I do this every day I eventually have Shmigley walking right up to me because he recognizes the game and knows that good things happen to him when he is with me.  This is great for helping this little horse to understand that I am not a threat but a friend.

I am also finding out that Shmigley doesn’t like a lot of pressure.  I ask him to approach a jump by gently rotating my fiberglass stick — called a carrot stick — towards his rump, and the minute he moves forward I stop the motion and reward him but dropping the tip of the carrot stick towards the ground, all pressure off.  I continue this motion of approach and retreat until he gives me a little more movement forward each time until he is finally over the jump, or has progressed enough in whatever direction I wanted him to go, whether up a pedestal or touching a ball, approaching and touching something scary, etc.

Now when I am completely through with whatever the exercise is — let’s say it is jumping over a jump —  I have gotten him to go over it a couple of times and I am now making the decision that we are finished and I take all the pressure of Shmigley, about to turn my attention on other exercises to do with him.  The mini then decides to jump the jump a couple extra times.  It’s the same way with the pedestal.  I had him approach it and eventually asked him to put his leg up on it.  But I thought the exercise was good even though he didn’t completely get up on the pedestal with his two front legs.  I was finished for the day since he worked at the courage for awhile.  He did everything I asked of him, but trying to have both hooves on the pedestal was a little much that day.  I can do it again the next.  I was finished with that exercise and ended the pressure and he tried it immediately, getting both hooves up on it.  So I am learning to give a little and then release the pressure before he tries and to see if he does it.  I am still experimenting with it.

In the time I spend with him, I am finding that my relationship is getting better, our understanding of each other is getting better, he’s more trusting.  I love it.

So between last week and my experience with Poochie and this week’s experience with Shmigley, I am here to say each individual horse or mini has their own distinct personality.  So while teaching our horses, we need to find their own distinct personality and their own way of training that needs to be done a certain way or you might not reach them in a natural way.  In other words, we need to learn how to understand their language and how to listen to that horse’s individual language and need.

That is what I am doing with all my horses:  learning to listen to each individual horse.  Training can be different with each horse and that is a new and fun discovery for me.  I am learning a lot from these horses and my present instructors.  But the more I learn, the more I understand that I still have a lot to learn about the horse.  Know this, that you must never stop learning about anything.  So go out there and learn everything you can.  Read books, watch videos, learn from instructors.  Enjoy learning at a new level, and the more you progress you will become more knowledgeable.

Please share with me your own experiences if you would like so others can learn what you have learned.

Resolving to build an even better relationship with horses

Since we have made resolutions for the new year, we should work hard to make those goals a reality.  Like I said before, it takes about six weeks to build a new habit.  I have made a couple of resolutions myself that I plan to make into a new habit.

Poochie (Photo by Amy Miller)

Poochie (Photo by Amy Miller)

My goal is to continue working my horses and building a great relationship with the first.  I want my working relationship to be a joy for the horses as well as myself.  So a goal of mine is to work at understanding the horses’ thinking so I can understand how they see things.  This way I can get a better understanding or how their mind works so I can have an even better relationship with them.  After all, we are a team in what we do together.  Trick horses usually live longer, happier lives simply because they enjoy what they are doing.

I am working well with Cheyenne and taking lessons to develop a better relationship with my strong-willed alpha mare.  I am learning how she thinks and feels by learning her body language.  We learn to read the body and face language of the horse and each horse is a little different, but the basic language is the same.

Another goal is to gain more understanding of the minis I work with.  There are two minis who belong to my friend Tina Crawford (who does a great job with a lot of the videos you see in my blog) that I work with and I find it to be quite enjoyable.  One of the minis is a very smart little guy and I am finding out how quickly he learns and how much he enjoys the fun of doing the tricks.  Every horse has their favorite tricks and not-so-favorite ones.  This mini, Poochie, enjoys sitting up like a puppy dog.  He will do it over and over again for a treat.

I am teaching Poochie to play basketball by first putting a jolly ball into a bucket, then I gradually teach him to go higher into a little toddler basketball hoop.  But again, my goal is to get to know minis and learn about how Poochie thinks as well as little Shmigley. They both think opposite of each other.  Poochie is not spooky of anything and Shmigley is a spooky little guy.  I am trying to help him learn to trust me so we can have a great relationship together.  So far it is working and he is starting to really love it when I go out to see them.  I mean, who wouldn’t love to get yummy treats when they do fun games with me.

These are a few of the goals I have this new year with these horses.  I will let you see a new video clip with Poochie playing bucket ball, and where he sits up.

How are you doing in your new year’s resolutions?  Feel free to let us know.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Well, it is a new year and along with that comes resolutions.  Most people express their dreams or desires of making a better life for themselves.  But the hard part is following through on things that people must do to make it successful, such as exercising more, eating less unhealthy foods and snacks, and losing weight is a big one.

2015-graphic-horse-sunset-1500Breaking old habits is the hard thing about following through on resolutions.  Maybe a person has a habit of not exercising and finds the workout harder than they realized, so they fall back into their old habit and wait until the next new year, and the vicious cycle goes on and on of not succeeding in what we wanted to do.

I do know that if a person could keep something going for about six weeks then a new and better habit could be set and then that person usually succeeds.  However, you need to keep pushing for that goal of making it into a habit.  Having a person to encourage you is a great plan too.

My new year’s resolution is to get myself more shows with my horses as well as using the minis more and more in the shows.

Here are some videos of what the horses can do.

What are some of your resolutions?  It would be fun to share.