Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Day at the Farm

This week I taught a Pony Club camp for seven kids ages 6-15.  It went off remarkably well, all things considered.  Only one kid fell off, and it was after his lesson when he was walking back to the trailer and a horse got loose and galloped towards his pony who spooked and left him on the ground.  He was alarmed but otherwise unharmed.

The big news was that I brought Jonah the first day.  The farm is quite near his training place, and the owner said I could bring him by whenever I wanted to feed him delicious delicacies in the scary room so maybe he would warm up to it.  So, I took him there on the way to and from camp.  The lights were off, the room was entirely empty, and the kennel dogs were barking and howling as loud as ever.  In the evening, there was a class in the room next door, so he could hear the clickers and voices.  Lots of distractions!  He was certainly nervous, but the turkey was delicious indeed.  When I turned towards the door, he was anxious to leave, but hopefully he'll be a little more comfortable at this week's class. 

In between sessions at the dog place, Jonah had adventures on the farm.  When we first got there we had a romp up to hilltop.  This farm is gorgeous.  There are a few big hills, and you can see Boston from the top on a clear day, even though the farm is a good 30 miles from the city.  Jonah thought romping around up there was pretty much heaven.  Unfortunately, then I had to work.  I started by just setting up some stalls for the kids' ponies to hang out in, so I was moving fence sections in the truck.  I would load them and call Jonah to follow me, but I don't think he understood that I was still in the truck.  He was concerned when I was out of sight and he kept going back to the parking lot and sitting next to my car. 

For the morning session I kept him down at the barn, but after lunch I did some unmounted lessons and Jonah hung out with us.  Some of the kids got him really excited and he was having fun, but most of the time our attention was on the lesson and not him, but he was mostly alright. 

Then, I was supposed to help the younger kids get ready for their afternoon lesson but the plan got scrambled so I ended up just teaching their lesson.  I'd thought Jonah would be fine around the horses while they were getting ready, which he was, but I had not planned on having him with me while I was teaching a mounted lesson.  He mostly stayed with me, but didn't get the concept that he should not stand in front of the jumps the kids were about to jump.  I was constantly calling him back.  Then he found the water.  He did his usual 'get really excited about water' thing and was racing around the field, rolling, shaking, etc.  Mostly he stayed out of our way until he decided the horses should play with him.  That was sort of the beginning of the end of his good behavior, as he tried to chase a few horses.  In the end, I took off my belt ant used it as a leash.  This mostly worked except one of the girls was very timid and only wanted to jump if I ran along next to her.  That was fine in the morning when I was on foot without a dog, but holding a dog and a horse and running and jumping was a bit more than I have coordination for.  Oh well. 

So, the final conclusion is that I think he had a fabulous time, but he was a bit of a hassle for me.  I didn't bring him back the next day because, as I was in the role of a professional at that point, I didn't want to be distracted.  I'll bring him back again when I'm just riding but not teaching.

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