Monday, June 18, 2012

Our "new" Pony

This post is only 3 months overdue. On St. Patrick's Day this year, we got a pony.  My Uncle (one of my Mom's brothers) called my Mom to see if we would be interested his youngest pony (he couldn't find our phone number).  I really didn't think my husband would be at all interested, but I told him anyway.  I figured he would say "not happening", without another thought.  But he didn't.  He was concerned about cost, but my Uncle told us she really wouldn't cost  us much.  He was also concerned about our daughter, because we had previously thought she was allergic to horses.  Well, she is not allergic to this one.  Ellie had ridden on this little one's Mother at my grandparents farm and had an allergic reaction twice.  We have two theories... one is the allergies were actually seasonal; the other is that all the fermented cod liver oil she's been taking is helping her allergies.

The pony was born on my Mom's birthday, three years ago (she turned three the month, after we got her).  My uncle had told my Mom that she looked like the Shetland pony that she had when they were kids.  My Mom's pony was named Toy.  So, my Mom asked if he would name the new pony Toy... and he did.  What a good big brother. 

So, this is Toy when we first got her.  The big horses behind her are our neighbor's horses.  She is smaller than both her mother and father.  She had a thick winter coat and looked very shaggy, not very cute.  Until my son and I got on the internet for information on Shetland ponies, I did not realize they were from the Shetland Isle in Scotland, in a cold area, where they grow a thick winter coat.  The kids wanted her, especially Wyatt.  So, we brought her home in my Uncle's stock trailer.

This is the day that she "escaped" under the portion of electric fence which is around our field.  Thomas thought he had the fence at just the right height for Toy.  The rest of us were concerned that the line of wire was a bit too high.  She was grazing away and walked right under the fence! Luckily, Wyatt and I were home eating lunch and he saw her out the patio door.  I took this picture while he was getting the lead rope for me.  Thanks to some leftover fence and gate from the previous owners, I cornered her between that and the neighbor's fence.  We got the rope on and led her back to the barn, so that Thomas could fix the fence.  He put a lower line of fence wire, so she cannot just walk under the fence.

You can see in this picture, with Wyatt, how shaggy she was.  Everyone thought the pony was going to be for Ellie.  Well, a Shetland pony is supposed to be able to ride 130 lb person.  Ellie has made it to 5 ft 1 inch and 100 lbs.  I think she and I are both nervous about putting that much weight on our little pony. She may be able to handle it, but she is the smallest Shetland pony we have ever encountered.  Even the man who cuts her hooves for us said that he had only ever encountered one pony as small as Toy.  Wyatt, on the hand, is 67 lbs, and he was hoping to ride her from day one.  No one had ever ridden her though.

So, here is our pony about a month later.  This is a lot of brushing later!  We had some families from church over, shortly after we got her.  Then we had one of them over after we had brushed much of her winter coat away.  The Dad thought we had shaved her!  Funny, funny.

I wanted a better picture to show how little Toy looks next to a full size horse.

Poor baby, the flies really like her.  I was trying to get a picture that showed her pretty blue eyes.  I just realized her mane is in a mo-hawk in the front.  I sometimes do that to her when I comb out her mane.

This picture is from last month when my friend and her kids visited.  Wyatt had gotten on Toy a couple of times.  I don't remember if I led her one of the times, or not.  I believe the kids would  have liked to go for a ride on her, but she really wasn't ready yet.  You can see the winter coat is gone and her boy is with her.  She's so pretty when she runs through the field!  Wyatt was, and sometimes is, a bit afraid of her when she runs.  He is learning to stand still and not run behind the cattle gates that close up our pole barn so that she doesn't get into something and hurt herself.

Wyatt and I have done really good lately being consistent about him riding her and me leading her with a rope every night. Toy seemed to be doing really good.  We would say how friendly and playful she is.  And she didn't seem to mind taking Wyatt for a ride.  Lately though, she has been as stubborn as the first couple times that someone tried to lead her with a rider (not me, but someone from church and the guy who clips her hooves... though the hoof clipper guy did better with her).  She definitely has personality and I was calling her a "turkey" (my affectionate term for generally being a stinker).  She was breathing hard and even purposely collapsed two different nights.  At first I thought she was dehydrated and we had worked her too hard.  But when Wyatt got off, she got right up and was ready to go to the barn for Pony Chow (feed, but that's what we've taken to calling it).  Miraculous little actress pony!  The heavy breathing ends, too, when she realizes we're headed for her stall and the Pony Chow.  She'll even break into a trot when we are near the barn!

We had lots of people tell us how tough you have to be with horses (and ponies, because they are basically little horses).  So, we tried to be.  Then, last night I stopped trying to keep Toy's head straight and make her keep walking and let her stop and rub her face against my leg (I knew she should keep her head straight ahead while we were leading her, and I was afraid she might be trying to nip at me (a warning from another friend about horses).  But Toy just nuzzled me.  So, I rubbed her face and neck and talked to her.  Then, she was ready to go again, no heavy breathing, or collapsing, or pitching any sort of mule fit (she would stop and not want to go, and even tried to buck once or twice... thankfully, I am pretty strong and can handle her).  We stopped a couple more times to love on each other.  Then I realized, when we first got her, and no one was riding her (the temperature was not so hot then either), we would go out to the field and visit her, brush her and pet and talk to her multiple times a day.  The horses next door are obviously her friends.  They run together and graze near each other, we have seen them nuzzle her face leaning over the fence.  But we think she is lonely for us. Wyatt and I spent, and now spend, the most time with her.  I am sure she misses the attention.  We are going to do better with just giving her attention.

Some things I learned about horses and ponies:
They only sleep about 4 hours a day.
When they are not sleeping, they are eating... unless you are riding or working them.
Ponies are especially easy to founder (heard that from at least four people, including my Uncle).  Thomas compares foundering to gout in a human.  Ponies get it from eating too much fresh (green) grass and clover.  So, we put Toy in her stall each night, so that she doesn't eat all night and get sick.  Her neck muscles would tighten up and her hooves would get soft and yucky.
They are animals of prey.  That confused me, I was thinking that meant they hunt other things... but for me, I guess it is like some other confusing terminology.  Horses and ponies do not hunt!  They are the hunted.  So, an animal of prey is not one that prey's on others, but one that is prey to others.  Anyway, that means they are scared of things.  You don't want make a snake sound (unless you want her to buck and try to run off), or make sudden movements.  Poor Toy, like many horses (I've heard) is also afraid of the sound of a spray bottle.  Which makes putting on her fly or tick spray a harder job.  I have to wear rubber gloves, and use a rag or sponge.  The first time I put the spray on with a rag, I got the liquid all over the stall... even in her water bucket.  I had to get things away from her so I could clean them off, because the fly spray would have made her sick if she swallowed the liquid.
I learned not to go to the vet for a $12 tetanus shot for a pony.  Tetanus shots for animals are only $6 at Tractor Supply Company!  I know this because our Pony caught the skin above her hoof (and got her hoof stuck) in fencing the first month we had her... which is why we waited to ride her for so long.
Dogs and ponies do not get along the best, but cats and ponies are okay together.  I learned from others that goats are good with ponies, too.  My Grandpa told my Dad, when he was growing up, that cows and horses don't mix well together.  I'm not sure about that one though.  I have seen many fields with cows and horses together.
Hooves on big horses need to be trimmed every three months... little ponies hooves need to be trimmed between three to six months.
If you have horse that nips, you have to break them of nipping.  Otherwise, they can take a chuck out of a person!  Our pony cannot eat an apple unless the apple is cut into pieces.  Her mouth is so small.  I still don't want her to nip though.
We put up electric fence around the garden to keep Toy out.  Wyatt called her with Pony Chow one day, and we didn't have the yellow flags on the electric fence wire yet.  Toy will do most anything for Pony Chow.    She didn't notice the fence and busted right through!  She picked the shortest path to Pony Chow, and she did not slow down.
Shetland ponies can live up to 25 years!
This has been quite a learning experience.  I'm sure there will be more in the days ahead.