Jenny Beck and Possum Training

March 16, 2020

Possum is missing foundation basic training and that is something I am not skilled at. But my friend Jenny is. She has had him for a little over two weeks and has been breaking through his entitled-pony brain.

I went out to her place Saturday for a one on one lesson with Jenny and Possum. She showed me all these exercises she’s been doing with him and then had me do them. There is totally some technique learning I am going to have to work on. She has a whole style and fineness to it that I can only hope to partially mimic with lots of practice.

She started off collecting him from the field and while walking to the barn she would stop. He was supposed to stop with her, at her should (like a dog heeling) without her pulling on him. She later had me do this and his response was amazing. He stopped! And stood! She explained he needs to be working when he is with me and not looking around, or trying to eat, and be paying attention to me.

We moved to Jenny’s obstacle ring and she showed me how she could whip the ground on either side of him and he did not flick an ear or move at all. He was trusting and paying attention. I attempted to video this but had a user error. I did video some of the rest of the ground lesson and you can watch it below.

She moved onto lunging with lots of change in direction. She said she has been doing this for about 6-7 minutes at the start of sessions and he seems to do best when he starts out this way and maintains the same routine. She said not all horses prefer that and do better mixing it up but my guy likes routine.

She points to tell him to go on (in the direction she is pointing), or to pick it up when he gets sluggish or lazy. The change of direction cue is her switching hands and pointing in the other direction. It is a bit hard to explain but you can see it in the video. She explained that if I put more energy into my cues he will give more energy back. I found this more obvious in the change of direction. If she gave more energy he was much more quick to stop and pivot to the other direction. Very impressive.

Next she incorporated in inviting him in. She would give him a cue of looking at his hind quarters to signal him to turn and he would turn and walk in. Each time he stopped properly in front of her, appropriate distance, and stand. She incorporated this into the lunging for several more minutes.

Next I gave it a try. I like the lunging and direction change very much. I joked that it was like a basic flat lesson where you hear “thumbs up, elbows in, heels down” or whatever you need reminders of. She correction my hands and explained why I want them where. Just like with riding it will take some practice. But it does feel pretty cool when he would do some of those direction changes so instantly.

Next Jenny had Possum do a lot of backing. She backed him around the arena, turning with the cue of looking at his rump in the corners. She took him all the way around the whole arena. Jenny showed me two techniques for this. With one she sort of walks towards him making sort of an X with her arms, crossing them back and forth. With the other one she marches at him, pumping her arms. You can see both in the video. Each time she stopped Possum just stood. We talked between some backings, one time for probably 10 minutes. Each time he stood and paid attention.

Jenny reinforced he is to be “working” and paying attention. He is not allowed to look around or eat or move around. If you know Possum he is a very fidgety pony. He often crosses his front legs and rubs them, stepping side to side and often spins on the forehand a solid 125 degrees. I know some of it is anxiety when he does it in competition. But it is also fueled by his boredom and him being in control.

When we tacked up and Jenny had me flex his neck right after mounting. I am going to use this in competition when he gets anxious. Give him a task.

I am so amazed at the progress he has made. Jenny is amazing. She has him this week and I’ll get him back next weekend at Popsicle Pairs. Then it’s up to me to continue this work at home.

I’m just so thrilled! Did I mention how awesome Jenny is?

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