Pippa's Secret - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 123 Old 10-05-2018, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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Pippa's Secret

I've been an active poster for a few years now but never felt drawn to starting a journal before. But now I have an interesting project that I am hoping I will make some progress with, and I'm inviting feedback about it as I go along.

I have a very dear and wonderful riding horse, Brooke, a grade Morgan mare. She is not the project. But now, because of Brooke, I also have this charming 12.2 pony I've named Pippa. She was acquired sight unseen as a travel buddy and pasture companion for Brooke when I had Brooke hauled to me from California to Massachusetts where I live now. Pippa was a giveaway pony. Her family had acquired her ten years or so before, at an auction. They thought this filly would be a great gymkhana pony for their daughter. But, they told my teacher, who found her for me, she could not be ridden. She went crazy when you put a saddle on her, they said. So she sat in the pasture all this time, half a horse lifetime. This confession did not worry my teacher, after all she wasn't needed as riding pony anyway, and her temperament and her ground manners were exceptional. So she loaded her up and took her home.

Once at my teacher's stable, Pippa got her teeth floated, her feet trimmed, and she was dewormed and vaccinated. Her previous owners did not believe in vaccinations and had never heard of equine dental care. She was very ribby and her coat was so matted my teacher wondered if she had Cushings. No, it was just malnutrition. My teacher worked with her some on the ground trying to see what she knew, which was apparently, nothing. Pippa could lead, tie, and load, and that was it. After her vet and farrier care and a couple weeks of groundwork she got transferred to my rancher friend's pasture where Brooke was loafing with some other horses, waiting until spring when she could be hauled out to me. Pippa and Brooke were drawn to each other from the first time they saw each other, and were soon inseparable.

Everyone who met Pippa really liked her. She was quiet, anxious to please, and pretty to boot. The professional opinion was that her previous owners were clueless dopes who gave up on her because they didn't know how to start a horse. But as it has turned out, her story has got to be a bit more complicated than that. Possibly, way more complicated.

Pictures are of Pippa at home in Massachusetts, finally all shed out and a good weight. Still a little clubby in front at this point. It took about five trim cycles to get her feet normal.
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File Type: jpg pippa_stablepose.jpg (137.1 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg pippa_haltr2.jpg (163.9 KB, 8 views)

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post #2 of 123 Old 10-05-2018, 05:15 PM
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Subbing. She's beautiful.
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Don't judge someone's horse or skill because they don't compete or work with a trainer.

Sometimes they're the most in tune with each other.
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post #3 of 123 Old 10-05-2018, 05:22 PM
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Let the story begin to be told...


Shes' beautiful as is your barn....together gorgeous!!
Can't wait to follow the adventures of Pippa....
...
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The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #4 of 123 Old 10-06-2018, 09:58 AM Thread Starter
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Chapter Two.

When she came out of the trailer after her 3000 mile trek, Pippa seemed surprisingly calm. The people who hauled her said she had a lot of aplomb and never turned a hair about anything. It was early May then. There hadn't been horses here in a few years. When we moved in, in February, we found that behind the awesome three-stall professionally-built kit barn, there were some neglected pastures fenced with sagging barbed wire and a vague clumsy attempt at a small pen, made with tape and incapable of containing any kind of animal. We had been working hard for months to build runs for the stalls and safely fence the pastures and start clearing out the brush and saplings. Both horses had been on pasture before they had left California so despite everyone warning me about the dangers of spring pastures I transitioned them to grazing fairly quickly without any ill effects I could see.

Pippa was quite hard to catch in the pasture. She would see the halter and immediately trot off. So she had some bad associations with haltering. At first all I did was bring Brooke into the sacrifice area and Pippa would follow. She would try to evade capture but then suddenly give up and be completely compliant. I would go out into the pasture with pocketfuls of horse cookies every day, I put a halter on Pip and then take it off, give her a cookie and leave. This improved things, but she still struck me as an unusually wary personality. Not in any way aggressive or ill-tempered, in fact I have to this day never observed her to even lay an ear back, but watchful.

It's been six months, and she is still watchful. She understands much more about the routine, is always polite in hand, but there is a difference between obedience and trust. If I hadn't owned Brooke, I probably would not have felt this so much. But Brooke is my horse. She nickers when she sees me, and whinnies to me if I leave. She does things specifically to annoy me so I will pay attention to her, like scraping the blanket bar outside the stall with her teeth. Pippa is too tense around humans to have a sense of humor. It is Brooke she cares about, not me. It is clear to me now that Pippa has never had a real relationship of trust with a person. Because she is a naturally submissive personality, she tries hard to not do anything wrong, but that is not the same thing.

I live right against a state forest, which is bordered by other uncultivated lands, in conservation trusts, owned by the township, or simply abandoned. It is covered with a network of little-used trails, most of which never cross a paved road. When I rode Brooke out, I started taking Pippa too, loose with just a halter on. She would stick with us just like my dog (who also went with us). The four of us would go out for hours together. If Pippa took a wrong turn I call her and she'd come right back. I don't fool myself though -- it is Brooke she is coming back to. There aren't many horses I would trust to do this, but Pippa is as connected to Brooke as if I was ponying her -- more so, even. This was a brand new thing for me, and really fun for everyone concerned. Pippa much enjoys these adventures, it is clear.

Early on, it occurred to me how adorable Pippa would look pulling a pony cart. There are many miles of old farm roads through the forests around here, some maintained for cars and others just snowmobile tracks now. Lots of places for driving. I had also always had in the back of my mind teaching Brooke to drive, although where I was in California there was barely anywhere to ride, much less drive. Now though, possibilities beckoned. Naturally I thought, I can learn how to drive with this pony and then teach my horse! Pippa would be improved by some education and I am always looking to learn new things.

Ah, little did I realize that driving is even more complicated than riding, if that is possible. There's way more equipment, and all of it different than anything I was familiar with. I needed a harness, a training cart, an instructor to teach me to drive, and a trainer to teach Pippa to drive. For starters. I had my work cut out for me.
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File Type: jpg pip_trail.jpg (249.4 KB, 7 views)

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post #5 of 123 Old 10-06-2018, 11:32 AM
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She is a beautiful pony
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post #6 of 123 Old 10-06-2018, 12:36 PM
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Yea, she is a real pretty pony.
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post #7 of 123 Old 10-06-2018, 02:10 PM
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Absolutely beautiful Avna. Looking forward to your driving adventures!
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post #8 of 123 Old 10-12-2018, 07:32 AM Thread Starter
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I started lunging Pippa on the lawn, being as that was the flattest place I had, while beginning to search for someone who could help me teach Pippa to drive. As with Brooke and riding, I found myself once again with a totally green horse and lacking the skill set I needed to train her. Everything had worked out great with Brooke though, so I figured I could do this again. I just needed instruction. Right?

Pippa seemed to already know how to lunge, but she was always nervous about it. She would only walk a short part of a circle before she felt she had to trot again. With Brooke, I would just let her figure out it was easier to walk. Brooke has a lazy streak and if she is comfortable she will generally choose to do the thing which takes the least effort. Pippa does not have a lazy streak. She's sensitive and energetic and worried. She never got the idea that it was easier to walk, no matter how many times she went around. Also, when I stopped her she invariably would wheel to face me, and I couldn't get her to quit that either. These things should have told me something, but they didn't, because I have not experienced the results of other people's training, only my own.

I saw a pony harness advertised on a local horse facebook page and went out and bought it. I was too ignorant to understand that just because it was neither a mini harness nor a horse harness didn't mean it would fit. A harness is not a halter. It is a conglomeration of many different pieces of leather buckled together, most of which must fit pretty exactly if they are to not cause problems. What I had bought was more of a shetland pony size, and Pippa is quite a bit bigger than most shetlands. On top of that, Pippa is not built like a typical cold-blooded pony, short-coupled and stubby. She is built more like a very small refined horse. Even pony harness the right size needs extensions due to her length. However, all that may not even be relevant to the rest of Pippa's story.

I did find a trainer. She is semi-retired from managing college riding programs, and before that, competing in Dressage and Combined Driving Events, which I looked up online and was sort of terrified by. It is an FEI sport involving from a one to four horse hitch, usually Warmbloods or a European harness type breed. Part of the competition is a tight twisty obstacle course with hills and water, executed at maximum speed. My fantasy of trotting sweetly down a country road with bells on was a far cry from this!

Under her direction, I sold the shetland pony harness. I found a used training cart, and ordered a harness from a company which required careful measurements. I bought a pony bridle, some different snaffle bits, a surcingle, side reins . . . and of course Pippa needed her own fly sheet, and winter blanket, and well, it appears that my tack collection will expand to fill whatever space I have to store it in. My new tack room is far roomier than my old one.

My new teacher/trainer started Pippa accepting a bit, and soon she had her driving in long lines. We went up and down my very quiet dead-end road, first with me at her head, and eventually with both of us walking behind and me with the reins. We added side reins as Pippa started developing a habit of rooting, but otherwise all was going quite smoothly, according to my teacher. Sometimes I hauled Brooke and Pippa to the local riding club's grass arena and we worked there. I started adding in some riding lessons on Brooke too, which was very satisfying. I had really missed my lessons; due to the total upheaval of moving across the continent I hadn't had a lesson for maybe nine months. As it turned out, I was fortunate to have something to fall back on, because Pippa's driving education was soon to come to a crashing halt.

Blurry photo of Pippa's last good day with the long lining:
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File Type: jpg pippa long line.jpg (77.9 KB, 7 views)

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post #9 of 123 Old 10-12-2018, 08:32 AM
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I love Pippa. This is very suspenseful.
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post #10 of 123 Old 10-12-2018, 11:14 AM
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Subbing to see the happy ending
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