Thursday, 3 September 2009

Can't or won't?

Interesting day today out trimming some of my regulars, and was discussing one pony with his owners, a lovely family who provide something akin to "pony paradise" for their horses :-)

This particular pony is a companion to their riding horse, and as he can't be ridden they are finding it hard to keep weight off him. He's quite a feisty little chap, and although not malicious can be pushy at times. They described the problems they had lunging him, and that they were thinking of getting a trainer to work at improving his manners on the lunge.

But what they described was more than just pony fidgets - they said when they put him on the lunge "he just leaves and we can't stop him".

As it happens, the pony has very weak front limb conformation with an incredibly narrow chest, and watching him trot up after his trim it occurred to me that his shape makes it incredibly difficult for him to balance on a circle because he just doesn't have the pectoral muscle to enable him to stabilise his front limbs properly. Talking it through with his owner, we came to the conclusion that most likely its not that he won't lunge - after all he is more than happy to be led out in hand, and stands politely to be trimmed - but possibly that he can't, and his only option is to "leave".

Of course, I'm not saying that ponies (or horses!) can't be monkeys sometimes, but what made it clearer in this pony's case is that he has very knowledgeable, consistent owners who have turned him into a very happy pony, so his behaviour on the lunge is uncharacteristic.

It reminded me that if an otherwise genuine horse appears to say "I won't", its always worth thinking about whether "won't" might in fact mean "can't".

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