Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Pony Tails

Too Smart

There are horses that are extra smart, and get up to all sorts of mischief and nonsense. Then there are ponies. Clearly, they’re wired a little differently, even smarter than the smartest horse. The problem with all their ‘smarts’, is that they usually don’t use their talents and high skill set, for good. Often, they’re the naughtiest critters on four hooves.
Over the years, I owned many ponies, all adorable, all as smart as could be. There was one that was head and shoulders, above them all. One that was so smart, so mischievously naughty, she put the others to shame. She was the second equine I bought after Thow-ra, my first.
We had an understanding, Smokey and I. She would continuously test my ability to keep her contained, and I would do my best, to thwart her efforts. If she couldn’t go over or under a fence, she would squeeze through it, all without breaking any fence. If she got out, Thow-ra, her very best friend, would run over and kick Smokey in the butt, just as soon as I returned her to the pasture. It was the strangest thing, as if Thow-ra was reprimanding her little friend. Strangely enough, the scolding must have had a bit of a impact, because Smokey would behave, at least for a few days.
The game of wits, or maybe it was the battle of wills, continued in every aspect, of interacting with Smokey. I’m almost embarrassed to say, I didn’t always win, but I surely learned. That pony taught me what it took to build a proper fence, and that being lax usually meant, she’d get away on you. As long as you reminded her that you were paying attention, she’d behave. Get a little too comfortable, she would take advantage.
Despite all the little quirks she’d learned from her life before me, I turned her into a great, little all-arounder. Western, English, bareback and harness, there wasn’t much she couldn’t do, as long as she felt like it. She listened to me, almost always, but would get away with what she could, with anyone else. She feared nothing, and the whole time she was being worked with, you could just tell she was thinking. Thinking, and working out an agenda of her own.
I often worked with the horses on my own. There was no one to help, but that was okay. Most of the time, I could figure out things, for example, trailering. My sweet Thow-ra, trailered like a champ. She would leap into the trailer, without hesitation. If asked to back out directly thereafter, she would immediately do so. That obediently willing mare, would load and unload all day long, if you asked her to. Smokey? Not so much. It wasn’t that she was afraid in any way, or didn’t trailer well, she simply didn’t always feel like loading up. One particular time, sticks out clearly in my mind. I was going to a horse show. All the gear was loaded. Thow-ra was on the driver’s side, and all there was left to do was load, one strong-willed pony.
My first attempt was at loading her without a whole lot of fuss and bother. That was nothing more than wishful thinking. Smokey was having none of it. Fine, if she didn’t want to do it the easy way, we’d go it the time consuming way, with a barrel rope, a soft, cotton rope encircling her barrel. Tossing a rope over her back, I threaded the end through a loop under her belly, then between her front legs, up to the halter. From the halter, the rope went into the trailer, through a tie ring, out the escape door and alongside the outside of the trailer, back to where Smokey stubbornly stood. Hooves planted to the ground, she knew darn well what was up. She’d made up her mind that, she wasn’t going into the trailer. She knew the rope very well. It was the tool I had used, to teach her to come into pressure, and how she’d learned to stop pulling back when tied. If she came forward, the squeeze around her girth lessened. If she pulled back, it became uncomfortable. Still, despite her training, she was having one of ‘those’ days, and simply had to test things.
I stood behind and off to one side, keeping enough pressure on the rope, to keep her thinking. I’m sure she was thinking she didn’t care how much her middle was squeezed, she wasn’t going to hop in.
Minutes were ticking by. The sun was already warm and getting warmer, as the stubborn, little brat remained rooted to the ground, unflinchingly calm, seemingly oblivious, to all I was attempting. Though I had allowed enough time to get to the show, I was using up the extra, quite alarmingly fast. Not only that, I could feel sweat trickling down my overly warm skin most uncomfortably. Thow-ra was patiently waiting, but was surely getting a tad warm as well. It was time for Smokey to appreciate the ‘squeeze play’ and give to pressure as she’d been taught to. As I leaned into it a bit more, and the rope squeezed a little bit more, I swear Smokey rolled her eyes at me, as if saying ‘bring it on’. She was taunting me … honestly.
Then it happened. That something that changed everything. Glancing around in my frustration, my gaze caught sight of two ordinary items, the flat shovel and broom, I cleaned the trailer with. If there’s one thing that’s important above all else for good floor care, it’s keeping it clean. No manure sitting on wood, no wet straw or shavings, meant it didn’t rot. Anyway, frustration, and what was becoming a time crunch, prompted an action unbecoming of a horseperson. Keeping pressure on the rope, I swiftly leaned down, snatched up the broom, then quick as a wink, that cornbroom end, met Smokey’s round, plump rump, with a great whoosh of air and sound. Caught by surprise, there was a moment of hesitation where her eyes opened wide, then she leapt in and stood, all obedient and proper, as if it had been her idea to load right then.
She was her usual self all day. At the end of the show, she was about to play games again, but I had her number. Pretending to reach down, I grinned when that tenacious pony, immediately leapt in. A flat broom to the butt didn’t hurt, but it definitely made an impression. If ever she acted, like she wouldn’t load from that day forward, all I did was lean down, problem solved. I suppose it could be said that I ‘swept’ her off her feet.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB