How do you turn a 36″ cranky mini horse into My Little Pony?

Other than spray painting Pony Sue pink, having a 3 foot long weave put in, and sprinkling him with sparkles… the only thing I could come up with to answer this question is to train the little rascal.

Generally Pony Sue is a good-natured fellow.  Lord knows he’s the first in line to greet you if you have anything slightly resembling food in your hand.  He won my heart when we found him at a Houston feed store, staring at us, beckoning us to “come pet the pretty smokey palomino pony” with his big brown eyes sparkling full of sweetness and promise.

He didn’t disappoint.

Pony Sue is indeed very fun to pet (most of the time), will follow you around like a puppy (often enough), and will even greet you with a shrill whinny as you walk up.  He knows NO strangers.  He also knows no fear. Knowing one heck of a good personality in a horse when presented one, I (henceforth known as The Sucker) bought him.  I led him through a throng of cars, people, and children to my trailer expecting him to bolt, jump around, and be overwhelmed.  Instead, he strutted, let everyone pet him, and jumped right into the trailer as if it were filled with applies the moment I opened the door.

Oh yeah – this is a great little guy!

That being said, Pony Sue also has earned his name (see “A Boy Named Sue” lyrics by Johnny Cash) in his attitude.  With anything larger than him (which consists of 99% of everything on earth minus ants and chihuahuas), he feels he has to bluster, paw, prance, and generally act like a little Napoleon.  While this is amusing, it’s not necessarily safe – especially considering he was purchased “for Miss L”.

(Note to readers:  “for Miss L”  should be interpreted as “using someone else’s tiny daughter as an excuse to buy the pony of The Sucker’s dreams”.   Glad we got that straight!)

So here I am – one cute toddler with no fear and a rather tall and sometimes menacing father on one hand, a mini-horse with the personality of a Goliath on the other hand.  So begins the training adventure.

The issues that Pony Sue has are as follows:

  • Aforementioned lack of fear, which shows itself in a savvy for walking into the personal space of any creature, even the 16.2 hand-high horse, no matter how much biting, kicking, screaming, rope-throwing, or chaos ensues.  Repeatedly.  By repeatedly I mean “get beat up now – return in 38 seconds for more”.
  • A very touchy flank area that, when touched, results in the fast-and-furious flying of the tiniest little hooves you’ve ever seen.
  • A lack of ground manners when being led – which generally results in the human being led by Pony Sue.
  • An unknown history of riding.  He was said to have been “ridden easily by children”.   That being said, in the horse world a “dead broke” horse usually means “you’ll go broke and probably be dead by the time you finish training them”, and “a children’s horse” means “only fearless children have the guts to go within 3 feet of them”, etc.  You get my drift.  I have NO real idea of this pony’s saddle manners.  Given that flank issue… yeah, we’ll just not go there.  I’m going to assume he has a potential career as the tiniest rodeo bronc known to mankind – and hopefully be pleasantly surprised to find I’m quite wrong.
  • A lovely gift for picking up his front hooves the second you ask for them – and putting them down just as quickly.
  • A penchant for nipping you when you approach an area on his body that he doesn’t like having approached.
  • No regard for whether or not a human (particularly The Sucker) is standing in his way when he decides to lash out in fury at the other horses.

To his credit, Pony Sue also has the following traits:

  • Amazing intelligence evidenced by his large, kind eye, his ability to learn anything quickly (including how to look extra-cute at sale time in order to hook-line-and-sinker The Sucker, the knowledge of how to know the INSTANT The Sucker opens up the feed door right by the alfalfa, and exactly which hand in which you might be holding a treat).
  • Good conformation for a riding horse, including extraordinary feet, a beautiful gate for such a shorty, and good balance of length of neck to shortness of back.
  • Some manners when haltered, the ability to load in a trailer like a dream, and the ability to pick up his feet.
  • A true people-seeking personality.

The methods I will be using to polish up Pony Sue are a mish-mash of different techniques that can be all included in the broadly-brushed category called Natural Horsemanship.  Some people will gloss it over and call it “Indian methods” (which always makes me snicker a bit).  Others go the other direction, equal gloss, and call it “cowboy training”. Others hug a tree and call it “natural horsemanship”.  Really – this stuff has been around and used by people for ages, anyone who realized that 1000 pounds of horse eventually gets tired of being bullied around and needs a better reason to let humans (aka predators) jump on their back and make them work when there’s grazing, sleeping, and making colts to be done instead.

I find that a lot of my methods match those of Clinton Anderson and John Lyons. I do admit that I have adapted some of their methods or used them to inform some of my own. That being said, I fully believe that each person should find a path that truly suits their own goals and their horse’s success without putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket.  Ray Hunt is really the father of what most people call “natural” methods these days, as were the Native Americans, but again – many of these were discovered when I was a small 9-year-old girl with a 4 year old too-smart cowwy mare and too much time on my hands in the summer time.  These methods have been tried by myself and others time and time again, proven to build a relationship with a horse rather than intimidate them by fear into doing what you want of them.

As I often say, a horse trained in fear will leave its owner high and dry when something scarier comes along. I believe in gaining the respect of my horse in other ways so that when they’re afraid of the world, you’re there as their Knight In Shining Armor to save them – and they to save you!

I welcome any and all comments provided in a rational and constructive manner.  All others will be deleted (and secretly mocked).  Did I type that out loud?  Still – I really would like to hear your experiences, your thoughts, and your questions.  I also welcome all subscriptions and mentions in facebook,  and all the other annoying little medias that I have learned I cannot live without!  (How did that happen, anyway?)

Thank you again for taking the time to read this blog which will be updated as Pony Sue is updated!

Nathalie (aka The Sucker)

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One comment on “How do you turn a 36″ cranky mini horse into My Little Pony?

  1. Jon says:

    I can hardly wait to read more!

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