Jenny Beck and Possum – 3 Weeks

March 24, 2020

I went Sunday to pick up Possum. Jenny has been working with him for just about three weeks now and I am eager to get him home and start doing some of this work myself. I can only hope to be a fraction of what Jenny is and manage to keep what she taught him going.

She showed me a new lunging exercise she had just done two days earlier for the first time. He had Saturday off so this was only his second time doing it. She puts the end of the stick on his neck and walks forward in a circle. His job is to trot around keeping the stick at the appropriate distance. Jenny kicked some ass at this. I fumbled around and found it super hard not to face him. This one is going to take me some work.

She also has been working with different obstacle set ups to do neck reining. This is related to my complaint that he seems decent at it at home but doesn’t take it with him when I am away. She suspects part of this is just his attitude. Now he seems to be neck reining all over the place like a pro.

Next was his right lead. This is much improved. I’ll have to keep working on it to really lock that in. When I got on I got him to pick it up several times but it was still some work. Regardless it was a massive improvement!

After Jenny showed me some stuff and had me put my hand to each we took our games ponies on a hack around her farm. Possum very much enjoyed this relaxing ride after three weeks of hard work.

After our ride I packed up Possum and we headed home.

I am so grateful for Jenny and all her horse knowledge.

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?

Almeda Play Day – May 18, 2019

May 18, 2019

In interest of making Possum a well rounded and successful games pony he needs to have more experiences, see as much as possible, and get out and about. He also needs to do different things. So when Heather invited me to join her and Joan at Almeda’s play day I jumped at the chance. Normally this would have been a Simon thing, but Possum needed the experience more.

I should mention that Heather did an amazing job videoing Possum and I. But I SUCKED at videoing her and Joan. I ended up doing that thing where I thought I hit record, but when I hit stop recording I was actually starting the recording. So I ended up with a lot of video of my pocket and not much of Heather and Joan.

Video of the obstacles in the outdoor ring

We started off in the outdoor arena. Going into the ring there was a green sheet of wood with a black target on the center. The obstacle was called “The Black Hole”.

Tucker marched right over it with Heather. Joan dismounted and managed to get Angelina over it as well. Possum was not having it. I got off and he wouldn’t even lead over it. So we started with a Fearless Tucker, a Let-Me-Look-First Angelina, and a Nope Possum.

In the ring I introduced Possum to a few of the scarier obstacles from the ground with little success. Heather and Angelina were also on the ground showing their ponies the scarier obstacles. We eventually mounted up and Heather and Tucker continued to succeed. Joan and Angelina accomplished obstacles with a bit more introduction, making leaps and bounds. And I turned Possum to some of the obstacles I didn’t think would bother him and we hit on some success.

There was a flag obstacle. Pick it up from the standard, ride down and around another standard and return it. Easy peasy.

The pin wheel, which is a base with poles sticking out that you ride over and around. The goal is to not hit the poles. We successfully navigated the pinwheel but we did tap the poles.

Next I rode Possum over to the large ball so he could check it out (think yoga/Pilates ball in extra big size). He smelled the ball and then started to push it around with his nose. He got really into it and pushed it all over all on his own. This was a break through for him.

Next we all worked on the outdoor noodle obstacle. We made it a bit wider and started on foot. We eventually led the ponies through and then we all managed to ride through.

Heather rode over the bridge and teeter totter, Tucker was being such a pro! She also rode the long zig zag over the tarp. Joan led over them but Possum was still unsure. None of us were particularly successful with the water obstacle. I believe I have heard it called a sleuth box but I could be wrong. There is a board with holes in it that allows it to sink and water to push up when it is stepped on.

We took a brief break for water and to grab some pony treats and then moved onto the field obstacles.

Video of the obstacles in the field

The first obstacle was a gate which we all three crushed.

The second obstacle in the field was the car wash. We let the ponies check it out and eventually touch noses through the gaps from opposite sides. This seemed to help Possum and he marched on through. I quickly rewarded him with a treat. This began the rewards which seemed to make a marked difference in his success.

We moved onto the dragging obstacle. It was a rather large heavy pole and I was pleasantly surprised that Possum did this obstacle with out a thought. Heather also pulled it around with Tucker.

Next was another noodle obstacle. This one involved three hanging barrels with noodles sticking out of them. None of us were particularly successful here but all three ponies sniffed and checked out the obstacle. Possum pushed the barrels some and I wondered if that’s because they are the same white barrels his hay is fed out of.

We moved on to the natural obstacles. There were quite a few. A water trap which Tucker splashed right into as did Possum and Angelina. There was a section of dirt filled tractor tires that Tucker climbed up and down and Possum and Angelina did as well to a lesser degree.

There were a couple obstacles that involved walking through logs and branches. We were all successful here. And another tarp! Tucker crushed this one and Angelina succeeded next. Possum was back to Nope.

There were also a few narrow bridge type of walkways and a turn around box which we did not mess with much. But we did spend some time with the noodle car wash! These noodles had bells on the ends and included a tunnel. Possum watched Tucker and Angelina go through and then he rode on through himself like a brave pony.

Then we moved onto the third section, the indoor.

Video of the obstacles in the indoor

In the indoor there were a bunch of obstacles. All of us crushed the mailbox (Which was filled with carrots). Both Possum and Tucker were too interested in the carrots to be afraid.

There were three bridges here, one of which was tall. Heather and I led and then rode over them successfully while Joan started to tackle the noodle obstacle. Heather and I joined her and after some work all of us succeeded.

We also navigated the tarp obstacle, the pinwheel, the extra tall ball and cone, and the raised zig zag. Heather was the only one successful with the ball pit.

finally we headed back to the outdoor ring and redid a few of the obstacles that challenged us early on. Tucker seemed like he had had enough at this point. But Possum redeemed himself by taking on the water obstacle like a pro, first on foot and then mounted. He did all the bridges without a second thought, including the teeter totter and crossed the zig zag tarp.

It was a really fun day, and we certainly got our money’s worth, riding for around three hours. We even ran into some Shenandoah Trail Riders friends. Katie was on her tall pony Tiny, who turned three today. First, wow for a three year old. And two, she is much taller than I thought. And I think Melissa may have talked me into the Shenandoah Trail Riders, St Jude’s ride tomorrow.

My final group conclusion is that we all need more noodle work.

It was a really good time. I am so proud of Possum. He did excellent and made major improvement from start to finish. He really is a smart pony. When I took him up to obstacles he engaged each one, initially just looking at them but he did progress to sniffing and pushing at them with his nose. He also learned quickly that he got a treat when he was successful and brave. Eventually he would stop after the obstacle and reach for a treat.

It was an excellent mental work out, and a good desensitization for him.

%d bloggers like this: