Meet our newest family member, Peaches!
Like many horse purchases, it was a little
irresponsible spontaneous. IN addition, Zaydee’s already outgrown her before we’ve even gotten anywhere! But when this little unbroken mare down the road came up for sale for the price of a song, I just knew we had to give her a try. With Fly out of action for a while, it was the perfect opportunity and size for Z and I to learn the art of starting a horse from scratch. To get our new pony home, we waited for the scary school bus to do its afternoon rounds, then crept out the gate and down our quiet gravel road with a sensible escort horse leading the way.
Peaches proceeded to jump at shadows and lunge away from slowly passing cars as I proceeded to wonder what we were in for. A bandaged Fly looked on with interest as we passed his yard and popped her next door. For the next few days, our new little Peaches would call out to every person that went past or came within sight, earning the title of most talkative pony on the property.
When I haltered Peaches on the second day, I vowed to do something about her feet, pronto. Being four years old and having never left the paddock, she is no doubt overdue for a lot of things. Learning to tie. Having her hooves trimmed. Teeth filed. “One step at a time”, I told myself. If she’s waited four years for her feet to be trimmed, she can wait a few days more.”
Alas, all my horses thus far have come with the ‘pick up foot’ button. I had momentarily forgotten that such a thing must be taught, so Peaches and I spent a good ten minutes doing the dance of the chestnut/hock squeeze.
Each day we’ve been trying something new, and this whole journey of starting a horse has been awesome.
It’s a little scary being in charge of a horse with no baggage- a veritable blank slate. She’s more sensitive and quicker off the mark than other horses we’ve had. However, I have to remember that she’ll spook at the donkeys even from across the paddock, and insists on sniffing every brush or comb that comes her way.
Being a sensible Welsh pony, a little tarp flapping or rope whizzing did little to ruffle her feathers, so we leapt 10 steps ahead and moved on to leaning across her back and having her accept a rider.
“I’m worried about you”, a friend and work colleague said the other day. “You’re taking on a new class AND getting a horse to break in? Teaching year 1 is not easy, you know… “
Luckily, this friend also happened to have the tact not to remind me that I also have a book needing to be finished.
“Oh no, Peaches will be ready by then. We’ll be riding her around by the end of January,” I replied to my doubtful friend.
Although all the horse books and stuff will tell you not to rush, or have a schedule when it comes to horse breaking, I would like Peaches to be a happy, useful, and reasonably calm riding pony by the time I go back to work in February. I’m obviously not the best with deadlines, but its good to have a goal.
So Ive made a little list of things to cover between now and then, and thanks to our brainy, brave little palomino, we’ve made a bit of progress already…
Starting with Peaches
(Green text =commenced
Crossed out= “finished”ish )
• Begins to trust and respect- allows me to approach without fear or anxiety
• Halters with ease and moves forward in response to pressure
• Leads with slack in rope
• Stands tied
• Ground ties
• Stands to be brushed and handled all over
• Can be washed without fear
• Accepts hobbles
• Yields hindquarters from standstill
• Yields forequarters from standstill
• Lowers head when asked
• Picks up feet
• Allows all four feet to be trimmed
• Lunging- walks, trots and canters
• Long reining- circle work
• Long reining- straight lines and serpentines
- With ‘carrot stick’, flag, ball, tarp, lead rope, etc
• Becomes familiarized to tractors, cars, bicycles, motorbikes, and domestic pets
• Walks calmly over tarps, wood etc
• Walks between narrow openings (barrels, narrow gates, bushes)
- Accepts a bridle
• Accepts saddle blanket
• Accept saddle and girth
• Move freely while carrying saddle with no bucking, kicking etc
• Accept rider jumping up and down alongside
• Accepts rider leaning across back
• Accepts a rider sitting upright in the saddle
• Stands quietly for mounting
• Walks and trots over ground rails
• ‘Gives’ to the bit
• Rides out calmly on the trail with an experienced horse
• Basic arena work and transitions- walk, trot, canter in response to rider aids