Who/What Is This Peanut You Speak Of?
Peanut is one of our go-to pony ride ponies. He is getting older these days. Probably over 20 if I had to guess. He is still fat as a tick, and sound for walking with corrective shoeing after a laminitis incident a year or so ago.
It Takes A Special Kind…
We are the pony ride vendor at the Maryland Rennaisance Festival. In case you have never been there it is quite an experience. Let’s say overstimulation at it’s highest level!
Now, imagine you are a pony expected to behave ( and give pony rides) during the chaos. Anyone that knows horses and know that the environment knows what a special pony it would take to be able to work in that environment.
I have three “go-to” ponies that over the past few years have proven that they are steady enough and used to the environment enough to handle working there.
The Dream Team Started Off With Four
The “dream team” of pony ride ponies that we were lucky enough to have for a few years, was Huey, Tiny, Peanut, and Penny.
Huey was a Haflinger looking pony. The most dead quiet animal that I have met to this day. Unfortunately, he has gone on to greener pastures in the sky ( for his sake hopefully there are no pony rides in heaven). Tiny also is a Haflinger, he is still alive and well and on the payroll at Renn Fest. Penny is an older mixed breed pony mare that does well there. Then there is Peanut.
What Is The Root Of The Peanut Problem?
From the outside looking in, someone might think that Peanut is overworked and underpaid. Maybe that he is so tired and exhausted that he just won’t do it anymore. Meanwhile, Penny and Tiny are just doing their thing.
Peanut is in fact not overworked, not at all! His sole purpose to our program is to give pony rides at the Renn fest. If he can’t do that he is out of a job. Which is no good if you are expensive to maintain animal like a pony.
The root of the problem is that Peanut is too smart! He has been there and done this job long enough to know the in’s and out’s of it. He knows that the pony walkers handling him are unfamiliar with horses. Which he proudly uses to his advantage to do what he wants, when he wants.
Not A Small Pony
Peanut may be short like a pony, but he is stocky and strong. By way of testing and getting away with bad behavior while being led. He knows how to use his big body against a poor unsuspecting, “non-horsey” pony walker.
His Original Trick
For the first couple of years. Peanut used a different trick than he is currently using. Originally, he would wait for the lifter to be about to put a kid on and then gracefully in one smooth step, swing his hind end out of the way, so they couldn’t get the kid on.
When he first started this trick, it was while I was still able to work at Renn fest. I walked him myself and made sure to keep his head perfectly straight when he stopped. As he walked around the last part of the circle, every time he would start pushing his shoulder, out and out. Then the walker would pull his head to get him to come toward her. When his head went toward the walker, that just made it easier for him to swing out the wrong way.
When I was actually there and could step in and correct him right away, it became less and less of a problem. Then we had one great kid that worked for us for a few years and she got to be an assertive pony walker, and she was the “go-to” girl for Peanut. She was firm with him and they had some sort of understanding because he worked well for her.
The New Trick
The new trick is just refusing to walk. Causing the pony walker to yank on his head to get him forward which he happily ignores, even when someone is encouraging from behind. Not good for the speed of the pony ride line which always tends to be very long. Not to mention the frustration of the employees.
The season is young and we still have a lot of weekends to get through, and we need Peanut to step it up. There is no refusing to work in our program, sorry, but, it’s not going to work!
Well, you may wonder what I could possibly do about this since I can’t even get near a horse due to my accident. Don’t worry I have friends that are just as capable of having a come to Jesus discussion with Peanut as I’m.
When I say come to Jesus discussion, I mean, a reality check. A session with groundwork by someone who is assertive, confident and knows exactly what it is the Peanut needs to do and how to get him to do it.
You would think it would be so simple to give a pony ride, just walk, stop, walk, stop. Unfortunately, there is more to it than that. They have to go forward when they are told to, stop when they are told to, as well as move sideways and backward if necessary.
Peanut knows what is expected of him. He has done this job for years. He just needs a reminder by someone who is self-confident that it is not optional.
Groundwork with a dressage whip for a few days, being really assertive, should get him back to the right frame of mind. Get him acting as a professional pony ride pony should act.
There Is Just One Problem!
The person who is going to get Peanut back to Jesus is not a pony walker at the renn-fest. She is an experienced horse person and will have no trouble accomplishing what needs to be done. The hard part is we have to get him back to behaving well enough, that with instruction, the pony walkers can keep him working the way he should.
The best thing to have to happen would be for him to go right back there this weekend, and be led by someone who could reinforce what we expect. That is not an option.
Fixing the Peanut problem, like the actual behavior issue shouldn’t be hard at all.
Training Someone To Handle Him With High Expectations
The hard part will be training a kid that has no experience with horses, how to be assertive enough to make him listen. He will test them, and they will need to know how to respond and that they have to respond immediately, or the correction won’t work!
So, basically, once he is behaving again. I’m going to have to come up with some sort of users manual that travels with Peanut to the Rennaissance Festival. I might have to cripple my way into the pony ride pen and give someone specific instructions… I’m not sure quite yet.
There Is A Peanut Problem And I Need To Solve It ASAP!
All I know is there is a Peanut problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible, preferably before he goes back to work this weekend. That will be the easy part.
Figuring out how to get a well-meaning but inexperienced kid to get the same behavior out of him is going to be the biggest challenge. Since I can’t go down there and show them myself or do it myself that adds a whole level of complication.
Not one that I can’t figure out though. Peanut is not going to be rewarded for being a brat, by not having to go to work! He literally only work for these few weekends a year!
That’s why I’m saying come on Peanut, suck it up buttercup and get back to work!
To Be Continued!
The Peanut story is to be continued…… I will let you know how those come to Jesus sessions go. Then when I figure out the hardest part, how to train the Renn kids to handle him. Where there is a will there is away.
Don’t worry Peanut the pony will be back at it before you know it! (hopefully!)