Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blogathon: My Little Pony Lessons

My Little Pony…

… how do you annoy me… let me count the ways.

Ok, that’s putting it mildly.  Ponies are evil, mischievous spawn of the devil.  I love them!  I didn’t realize either of these facts until I met Epona.

Epona arrived at the Bay State Equine Rescue in deplorable condition.  For over a month, we were caring for her in her quarantined stall.  She let us do anything from brushing to hoof-picking to administering medicine.

Then she started to feel better.

Having had bunnies for over 10 years in my life, the best way I can describe the first clues were that Epona was doing “Binkies” in her stall and in her own little paddock.  Binkies are these hopping, twisting, Olympic-worthy jump dances.  It’s adorable to watch rabbits do it; it was not only cute, but awe-inspiring, watching this pony do the same.

Until those back legs started taking aim.

For those unfamiliar with horses, as I was, ponies are Not Nice.  They are bossy little brats that don’t take anyone’s crap and have mood swings.  They are also ridiculously smart.  Epona and Avoca (the rescue’s partly blind Pryor Mountain Mustaing) found any and every weakness in our fencing and would work together to unlatch gates or cause general mischief.  Avoca has always been the rescue’s Alpha Mare; Epona was first mate.

Those not familiar with horses may also not realize that a lead-rope across the bum – a now properly filled and muscled bum! – of a horse surprises them more than hurts them.  My lessons in pony etiquette began with me going nowhere near her unless I had a lead-rope over my shoulder.  If I even saw pinned (flattened) ears, I’d lazily swing said lead rope.  She had her pony bum smacked a few times, but within 2 weeks, she just needed to see I had a lead rope and I would only get pinned ears--no more double barreled flying side-kicks.  After two weeks, I almost never got pinned ears; we had learned to play.

Or rather, she taught me to play.

I was just learning about longeing when Epona arrived, and our neighbor across the street had a nice round pen that she let the rescue use.  Epona and I worked out this longeing mystery together.  She liked being challenged; she liked it if I changed commands quickly so she wouldn’t get bored.  And then, when I was comfortable enough to free longe her (in an enclosed pen with just the longe whip and no line), she taught me to play tag.

I would tap her bottom and get her to move in different directions with voice commands.  Then she’d come up to me and nicely nudge me with her nose.  I’d scratch her favorite spots, and we’d start over.

Two years after her arrival and our work together, one of the other volunteers took Epona to the Barre Riding & Driving Club (BDRC) and New England Equestrian Center of Athol (NEECA) show at Felton Field in Barre, MA. The volunteer entered Epona in the walk-trot-canter classes, and Epona walked away with FIVE different ribbons!

She was adopted by an approved family only a few weeks later, and lives as the happy companion of a young girl.  She is also being trained to drive a cart!  Hooray for Epona!  No matter how many kicks or bites I sustained from her, I still miss her greatly. 

Upon Arrival at the Bay State Equine Rescue:

Epona After:

(Photo courtesy of Renée Goodwin of Stained Glass Creations & Beyond.)

Help us help more horses like Epona by donating to the Bay State Equine Rescue with the button below.  Thank you.

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