Groundwork with a difficult, old pony - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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Groundwork with a difficult, old pony

I've recently started training a 21 year old connemara pony gelding. He's been a "pasture pet" for the last few years, because the owner(teenager) has lost interest in riding and training and the owner asked med if I wanted to train him sometimes. I'm too big to ride him in the condition he's in now, so I take him for long walks and try to do some groundwork with him.

He's extremely fat, out of shape and just incredibly spoiled and used to doing what he wants. He pushes people around, has no respect for personal space and expects people to move away from him when he walks into them. He gives very little response to instruction and often just gives med a stinky face or kicks at me when I don't take "no" for an answer. If we just walk casually or I ask him to do slow circles in walk or trot he's usually fine, but when I ask for more he's unresponsive and when I put more pressure that's when he can kick or pin his ears at me.

I use a stick with a flag(old dressage whip that I've padded and fastened a white plastic bag at the end of) as a training tool and this works brilliantly on every other horse I train, including my own lusitano. She moves sideways, backs up, moves the shoulder out etc, just by pointing it at her and I've never had to actually touch a horse with the flag, because they move and I've felt pretty confident with my groundwork because I've gotten the horses to to what I ask with minimum pressure.

This one, he doesn't move... If I ask him to back up, by putting the flag at the ground in front of him and "rustling" it a bit(something that would make the other horses I train almost run backwards), he doesn't even look at it. I make more and more noise with it and lift it higher and higher towards his face to get a response, but even when the plastic bag makes contact with his face, he doesn't move. He may just put his head slightly to the side if he's annoyed enough, but that's all...

Same thing if I try to move his hind end away from me... I wave the flag a bit near his hind, like I always do to make them move away and cross their hind legs over. He just stands there and I wave the flag harder and harder and closer and closer until I make contact, and not even then does he move. I have to give him 3-4 hard smacks with the stick and then he slooooowly moves one step to the side OR he kicks at me. If I try do drive him away when he kicks, he often kicks again, sometimes with both hind feet at the same time and he's really trying to hit me... I've never experienced a horse like this. I really try to do everything gentle and always give the horse a chance to respond to the smallest cues, but he just seems like he's shut down and built a wall of "I don't care" around him...

If I bring the lunge whip and do som lunging he's much better. I don't have to touch him with the whip, but he responds to the loud "crack" and goes into a faster trot or a canter, even though his face says "I hope you die".

A small part of me just want to give up training him, because I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall and there is only frustration and no progress, but right now I'm the only one willing to try, so that he gets a chance do something else besides standing in his tiny paddock and eating. He seems healthy and probably has many good years left, and has beautiful gaits, so I think it's a waste to just leave him as he is for the rest of his life...

The owner has been trying to sell him for quite som time, but it's difficult to find someone interested in a pony like this...

Does anyone have any advice or something to keep me going and not give up?
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post #2 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 08:20 AM
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Welcome to ponies, my friend.

There's a reason the 'pony kick' is so common with kids on these welshes, and it's not because the kid is weak. These ponies have wills. of. steel.
I once saw a lesson with a pony last three hours because the kid/trainer combo against the pony were at impass.

You said you try to be gentle, but this pony is telling you straight up that gentle is not working for him so... don't be gentle. It sounds like early on he was desensitized to things so he doesn't care about bags or flags in his face. Use the lunge whip if that's what gets him riled up.
With some horses you have to think outside the box, and use what works on them, not everyone else.
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post #3 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 09:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanachic07 View Post
If I bring the lunge whip and do som lunging he's much better. I don't have to touch him with the whip, but he responds to the loud "crack" and goes into a faster trot or a canter, even though his face says "I hope you die".
I have no advice, but thank you for the chuckle this morning. I rode and showed my neighbors connemara pony as a kid and they pack a lot of 'tude in a little body. Good luck!
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post #4 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 09:55 AM
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Have you tried forgetting about all that waving a stick around at him and just ask him nicely to back up? How about with a treat? Ponies do really well with liberty type training.

Ponies respond very nicely to people that are kind to them and very aggressively to people that are rude and pushy...I would bet my last dollar that he would do absolutely anything for the girl that used to ride him, just for the asking. I would also bet my last dollar that this pony was not trained with this natural horsemanship stuff.

Change your focus, instead of telling the pony what to do, why not try learning what the pony has to teach you?
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post #5 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 10:16 AM
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I wrote out an overly-long response, but I think @AnitaAnne covered most of what I was going to say. Based on my experience, with my stubborn Pony, you have to find a middle ground between demanding (he would just double down, get ready for a fight, and refuse refuse refuse -- Pony loves a good fight) and begging (he knew if you were begging that you were subservient to him, so he would just disregard your request as irrelevant).

You have to spend some time getting to know him, to figure out where that middle ground is. My Pony did a lot better once I spent the time getting to know him and developing a relationship with him. I also tried to figure out what he was willing to do, then I asked him to do it and praised him.

A quick example, he used to refuse to pick up his hooves for me, then he'd snatch them away once I had them. One day I tried just ASKING him to pick up his feet, rather than DEMANDING that he pick them up, and ever since then he's been very happy to do it. He knows what order I pick his feet, and as soon as I'm done with one hoof he will pick up the next for me, usually without even being asked now.

In my limited experience, a Pony can be a nightmare, but it can also be a wonderful partner if you're willing to put in the time (and it does take a lot of time) to develop that partnership.
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post #6 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 10:22 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Interstellar View Post
Welcome to ponies, my friend.

There's a reason the 'pony kick' is so common with kids on these welshes, and it's not because the kid is weak. These ponies have wills. of. steel.
I once saw a lesson with a pony last three hours because the kid/trainer combo against the pony were at impass.

You said you try to be gentle, but this pony is telling you straight up that gentle is not working for him so... don't be gentle. It sounds like early on he was desensitized to things so he doesn't care about bags or flags in his face. Use the lunge whip if that's what gets him riled up.
With some horses you have to think outside the box, and use what works on them, not everyone else.
Thank you.. I think I might have to up my game a bit, yes... I'm so used to willing and sensitive warmbloods and have very little experience with ponies, so this is a new world to me
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post #7 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 10:28 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
I would bet my last dollar that he would do absolutely anything for the girl that used to ride him, just for the asking.
From what I've been told, he has a long history of being difficult long before they stopped training him. He doesn't have a very good reputation around here. He would buck and throw his owner and others, run away on the ground, run away with a rider, try to kick etc...
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post #8 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 10:31 AM
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Also will add the 21 yr old pony has probably deserved his retirement and is perfectly content to hang out and eat. He might enjoy a few hand walks and some grooming sessions, but he has earned his retirement and doesn't have to be "useful".

I'd be cranky too if someone I didn't know dragged me out of my comfy home and insisted I run around for them.

Do elderly people have to have a job or be useful? Jeez.
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post #9 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 12:00 PM
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I agree and disagree with the posts above!

No horse or pony has the right to be bargy and mannerless regardless of age.

I am not a great one for Tod bits when it comes to ponies, it can easily make them snatch and bite, seen it way to often.

I do agree that flag waving isn't working and looking at how horses learn from each other, I would resort to that.

I would have a hoofpick with me, ask him to back up with voice and firm but gentelmgove and take pressure on the halter. If he didn't back then I would use the pointy end of the hoofpick on his chest. Ditto for getting him to move over.

They don't like the pressure at all and will move away from it. Soon they will move from the voice or halter shake.

I have dealt with so many ponies over the years, many have little respect for their little riders, they soon learned that if they didn't do as asked and took advantage then I would get on them and tell them to stop their nonsense, at the most all it took was for me to ride them twice and they were soon doing as I wanted.
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post #10 of 14 Old 03-27-2020, 12:30 PM
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Mine doesn’t respond to the stick and bag combo either but responds to lunge whip. I just chalked it up to previous,very thorough desensitization and carried on using the lunge whip and my body language.

She’s so thoroughly trained to plastic bags she doesn’t even look at them. Alternatively, she will chase them when she feels there could be food in them.
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