Among the numerous literature on horses, there is very little information about ponies in general and about Shetlands in particular. Basically, brief information about the breed and some rumors about the “harmful” character.
Having spent many years keeping and breeding Shetland ponies, the authors have accumulated considerable experience in raising young ponies. We declare with full responsibility that rumors about their “harmfulness” are clearly exaggerated.
In character, the Shetland pony is similar to sports horses. He treats people very friendly. But, if handled incorrectly, it is easier to “tame”, that is, spoil, than, for example, some kind of “village” horse of a local breed.
So, you’ve decided to take a pony foal that you want to raise and raise yourself!
Therefore, for a start, we advise you to acquire at least theoretical knowledge about the content and education of ponies. After all, not everyone had the opportunity to engage in various equestrian clubs or sections at hippodromes, where one could learn how to take care of horses and how to properly handle them.
In compiling this guide, the authors hope that you already have all the necessary knowledge of the exterior and interior of horses, and that you know the names and locations of all horse body articles.
Thanks to natural selection and the harsh living conditions of their ancestors, modern Shetland ponies are perfectly adapted to life in the open air.
Shetlands are the only horses that develop an undercoat (thin downy hair) by winter. Very long coat and thick undercoat keep warm well and do not let water through. During autumn rains, water flows down the wool without wetting the skin. And in winter, the snow does not even melt on them.
Therefore, it is advisable that the pony be outdoors all day, for example, in the yard or in a paddock (levade), but only at night in the stable. Even in thirty-degree frosts, ponies can be kept outside all day. In the pen, it is better to arrange a hay (grass) feeder in the form of a manger so that the feed is not trampled. Besides, daily walking is also a good remedy for boredom.
The simplest pony stable is suitable, if only without drafts. No heating required. Dennik no more than 8-9 sq.m., equipped with a feeder for concentrates and a lick salt. Hay (grass) is fed from the floor. For bedding in the stall, you can use small shavings, sawdust or straw. Often you do not need to clean your ponies, but only as needed (for example, before work). In winter, in general, you can simply comb the wool with a special comb. But during the spring molt, the pony must be combed out more often, otherwise it will look sloppy.
Feeding a pony is almost the same as a normal horse. Although there are still small differences.
The basis of the diet should be hay. It is advisable not to overfeed with concentrates. Ponies sometimes do not tolerate large amounts of oats, which can cause allergies (eczema or itching of the skin). Carrots should also be given in limited quantities – no more than 200 grams per day (1-2 carrots).
They drink 3 times a day in summer and 2 times in winter, before giving concentrates. In winter, ponies are eager to eat snow. However, if the pony is kept in a city where the snow contains harmful substances, the pony should be watered more often so that he does not feel thirsty and does not eat the snow. Drinking water at room temperature usually prevents eating snow.
The daily amount of hay is divided in half, one part is taken out to the corral, the second is given for the night, in the stall.
Carrots are given as a treat, separately, from the hand. You can add cabbage, beets and potatoes (in small quantities) to the diet. Salt is given in the form of a lick in the stable. In summer, hay is replaced with fresh grass, up to 15 kg per day, or grazing in the morning and evening for 2.5 – 3 hours (when the least flight of blood-sucking insects).
Approximate daily ration for a pony weighing 120 kg:
Grain hay …… .. ……… 3.5 kg
Concentrates (oats)… … ……………… …. 1.5 kg
Salt ……… ………………………… …. 0.006 kg
As the animal grows, the amount of hay is brought to 5 kg per day. Young foals are not limited to hay and are given plenty of supplies.
Education (training There are two differences between training a pony and training a normal young horse.
The first and foremost is the small size of the pony, which deceptively evokes affection, the desire to caress, treat the “baby” with a delicacy, forgive any prank. A six-month-old foal still no more than 80 cm tall at the withers. This is the size of a large dog rather than a horse! Considering the little pony as a toy, almost all owners pamper him, making a serious mistake from the very beginning.
At a young age, ponies not only easily learn the correct behavior, but can just as easily acquire “bad habits” or “tenacity”. It can take a lot of effort and time to fix them, and even severe punishment! Growing up, the pony reaches a mass of 200 – 250 kg, and he has enough strength for two adult men. Rising on its hind legs, a three-year-old pony will be more than two meters high. The whims of such a “crumb” can lead to injuries to both the animal itself and the owners.
And in an adult pony, bad habits are practically incorrigible. Ponies become “aggressive”. These ponies, spoiled since childhood, give rise to talk about “harmful character”.
As a result, if you want to train your pony “gently”, without coercion, then no concessions to small stature! Yes, and it is easiest to achieve obedience when the pony is convinced from her own experience that you are stronger, and, therefore, more important.
Do not trust the raising of a young pony to children. When communicating with ponies of children, the presence and help of adults is required! (When learning independently, the child is unable to achieve the desired results.) It’s another matter when the pony has already become an adult. His behavior is fully formed and reinforced by constant repetition. Now the child can take care of him himself, ride a horse, and so on. Like ordinary horses, adult ponies are very conservative in their behavior and try to adhere to a routine that has already been learned once.
The second difference logically follows from the first, and lies in the fact that the pony is intended mainly for children, and must be taught by an adult who cannot sit on it himself!
An unsolvable, at first glance, contradiction has to be bypassed with the help of “work in hands” for training for a little rider. Harness is easier. An adult can sit in a sled or cart, and for a one and a half to two year old pony it will not be difficult. In this case, the training of the pony will be almost the same as that of the “big” horses.
Principles and teaching methods
Immediately after birth and before weaning, the pony foal is mainly raised and taught by its mother, who feeds and protects him from all dangers and from other ponies. The kid imitates his mother in everything : what kind of grass to eat, who to be afraid of, who to be friends with. From the second month of life, the foal begins to communicate with other foals and with adult ponies. By the age of five to six months, the pony becomes independent and it is time to separate it from its mother. If this is not done, then soon the mare will chase the foal herself, and will do it quite cruelly.
From the age of six months and up to about 4 – 5 years old, young ponies are most capable of training. They easily endure a change of scenery, quickly get used to new people. The adaptation time to new conditions is about a month.
The principles of successful learning are continuity, gradualness and consistency.
Continuity – means that the exercise you started must be completed. When you start demanding something from a pony, be sure to achieve it!
Gradual – Your demands increase gradually. Learning goes from simple to complex. From familiar to new.
Consistency – classes should be held at the same time, every day, in the same place. Change the time or location one by one as needed. At the beginning of training, you can skip classes no more than once a week.
The methodology for successful learning is as follows:
- Stick to the same time of day for classes.
- The duration of one lesson should start from several minutes to one hour and increase gradually.
- Classes begin with a repetition of what has already been passed, and then, at the end, move on to a new one.
- During the day, there can be several classes, separated by a break of at least 10-15 minutes.
- Do not use treats during class.
- To encourage correct behavior, use “grooming” or stop for a few minutes and let go of the “walk”.
- There should be no time lag between yielding the foal to your demands and encouraging the desired behavior.
- At first, be content with little, and over time, achieve absolute command execution.
- Do not use a whip and the like for punishment!
- A whip, twig or sambar should only be used to indicate a stop or retreat (like an “arm extension”).
- At first, classes are held in a confined space, for example, in a stall. Then a repetition of the traversed – in the corral. And finally, free.
- Classes should be carried out after feeding, but not earlier than an hour after eating.
- Voice commands should be short and clearly articulated.
You need to start taming a young pony from the first day. You can treat it to carrots, bread or other food, which is a delicacy for the pony, while at the same time accustoming the foal to its appearance and voice. Little foals in the new environment are rather shy, so until the pony gets used to you, it is better not to catch and do not hold him. All the same, curiosity will not let him shy away for a long time, and he himself will come up to you.
Spend as much time with your ponies as possible. Anyone, even the wildest pony, allows you to touch the neck. Start taming with it. Touch your palm to your neck, shoulder. Use a comb or your fingers to brush them, and call the ponies by name. At the beginning of acquaintance try not to make sudden movements close to the head of the animal, do not approach him in clothes with a strong smell (for example, perfume). A pony’s mane has different sensitivity along its length. The most sensitive area is the bangs and the back of the head. Closer to the middle, the sensitivity drops sharply and at the withers the pony will not feel anything at all, even if a few hairs are pulled out. But he is very pleased when the withers and shoulders are scratched. But it is better not to touch the bangs, the area around the eyes and ears in the first days. Use special plastic brushes to brush your ponies. Speak in a low, affectionate tone. Say the command “oh-oh-pa!” If the pony runs back.
Along with the name, whistle can also be used to call the pony.
The purpose of the exercise: to teach ponies to trust the owner and come up to the call.
Concession to pressure
After around 7 or 10 days, when the pony becomes accustomed to your quintessence in the lull, you can start showing the request “recognize!” Put your hand on your horse’s side and say “take it!” Loudly. Increase the pressure until the pony moves away from you. After the pony takes a step, you must immediately stop the pressure, pat the pony on the neck and give affectionate praise. Repeat daily, many times, whenever possible, approaching from different directions.
Purpose of the exercise: to make the pony move away from a light touch, and then from the voice.
When helping ponies and horses to stop, the order “Hold up!” or “oh-oh-pa!” The sound”Whoa!”. Ponies and horses produce it after a run, when they make a stride, or stop (not to be mistaken for “wheezing”, which is a sign of dread or risk). The command is pronounced several times in a row, when the pony is held by the hands by the neck. As soon as the pony stops struggling and relaxes, you should immediately release it and scratch its neck. Applying the command “oh-oh-pa!” stretch the syllables. Ponies are very musical, so they mostly pay attention not to the word itself, but to the timbre of the command. Speak in a calm tone, lowering your voice at the end of the command.
The purpose of the exercise: to achieve a stop and relaxation of the pony, while holding it with your hands without effort, only on a voice command.
Under natural conditions, ponies have widespread grooming as a means of communication between members of the family group (herd). The subordinate horse is always the first to approach the higher in the hierarchy to scratch his back and shoulders with his teeth. When kept at home, foals often tend to scratch their owner’s teeth without distinguishing between man and horse. Having got used to a person, the pony can be the first to come up and offer “grooming”, that is, to grab the owners by the clothes with their teeth. This habit can turn into a biting habit. Therefore, one of the first commands that a pony should be taught should be the command to not grip clothes. For this purpose, we use the “fu!” (as for dogs). Previously, the command “spoil!” Was used for horses. (short for “do not play!”). Both commands are fairly short and are great for banning. You can use whatever you like.
When teaching the ban command, do the same as you do when teaching dogs. Click on the nose with your fingers and say the command when the pony has already grabbed the clothes with its teeth, or is just about to bite. When scratching his shoulder or withers, turn his head with your hand to the side. Stop scratching if the pony is stubborn.
Purpose of the exercise: to teach ponies to restrain their desire to answer you with “grooming”.
The halter is adjusted to the size of the head and left on the pony all day. At night in the stable, the halter is removed so that the pony does not accidentally catch on something.
Pull lightly on the halter and make the pony take a couple of steps. Praise. Increase the distance traveled behind you. After the pony is free to follow you on a halter, proceed with further training. Hold the pony by the halter next to you when you are not in front, but to the side. Walk next to the pony’s shoulder, leading him by the halter. Turn the pony to the right (left) by pulling on the side strap of the halter. Work out the stops. Use the commands “accept!”, “Whoa!” To help. Fasten the chymbur (leash) to the halter ring and do the same, moving the length of the chembur (leash).
Purpose of the exercise: To achieve movement, stopping and turning in response to a command or slight pulling of the chamber.
Driving by the bangs (mane)
After getting used to the pony to the halter, or even before that, you can teach the pony to follow you by just holding it by the bangs. They begin training by taming the foal to touch the bangs. For example, brush your mane and bangs daily. If necessary, the ponies are held by clasping the neck with one hand and holding the bangs with the other, so as not to create painful discomfort at first.
But, soon, it will be necessary to move on to holding the pony by the bangs only. The main condition is to make so much effort so that the pony cannot get out of your hands the first time. To facilitate holding, turn the foal’s head towards you by the bangs. As soon as the pony stops struggling, you should let him go, caress him. Help yourself with a stop command.
Once the foal is used to holding it by the bangs, start driving it with you. Start pulling the pony by the bangs, first in the direction of the stable (stall). Ask family members to help you and to nudge the pony from behind if the foal gets stuck. For the first time, a couple of steps behind you will be enough. Caress the pony and release.
If you have to train a pony without help, then you will have to stand to the side of his head, and not in front. You can send ponies forward by voice, using the command “no-oh!” or smacking your lips. If that doesn’t work, you can lightly kick the pony on the thigh. This is done as follows. Standing near the pony’s head, for example, on the left, and holding it by the bangs with your right hand, turn your back to the tail and, with a movement of your left leg back, hit the pony on the thigh, at first not hard, accompanying the blow with a team. Get ready for the pony to dash forward. Run some distance next to the pony. Stop the pony with the command “Whoa!” Let go and praise with your voice.
Try to move the pony by just pulling on the bangs, helping the team. Instead of kicking a leg, you can use a twig or a sambarier. However, the lack of various kinds of twigs, whips, shambarriers and other whips is that if they are ineptly used, you can frighten the foal so much, he will get a phobia (strong fear), from which it will be very difficult to get rid of it later. Do the exercise several times daily. Strive to follow you more and more in different directions around the pen. Help with voice commands to move and stop.
Purpose of the exercise: To achieve movement or stop while lightly holding the pony by the bangs or mane.
Attention: – punishment!
After six months, in natural conditions, foals, having lost their maternal protection, are at the lower rungs of the hierarchical ladder. In the herd, adult ponies very toughly bring up young animals with bites and blows of hooves. But, being among their relatives, young animals easily tolerate such treatment. Moreover, they themselves provoke adult ponies, defining the boundaries of permissible behavior for themselves.
However, when left alone, young ponies become overwhelmed! shy. Therefore, until the pony gets used to the new place and environment, you can punish with caution.
At this time, the most difficult thing is the balance between the need to stop the unwanted behavior of the foal and the danger of intimidating the animal too much.
A small foal can be punished with a snap of his fingers in the face. At the same time, use the ban command, which will later help replace the physical impact. Be prepared to restrain a rearing foal when frightened. In this case, a sedative “oh-oh-pa!” Will help.
As you get used to it, the pony will become less and less afraid of your gestures, so even more sensitive blows than clicking fingers will no longer cause him moral harm.
The main commandment in training any horse and pony is that punishment should be applied immediately for unwanted behavior, without delay. If more than 5 seconds have passed, it is already useless and even harmful to punish.
Punishment should not be confused with restrictive influence. For example, pulling at the halter or bangs is not a punishment for a pony, but pulling at the reins of the bridle will be perceived as a cruel and very painful punishment!
Most often, ponies have to take blood from a vein (mandatory tests for glanders, brucellosis, equine breeding disease and infectious anemia; done twice a year), and give injections (annual vaccinations against anthrax, leptospirosis, ringworm and other microsporosis, influenza horses, deworming). Since these procedures are a little painful, in order not to accidentally intimidate the pony, be sure to give him a treat both before and after the injections. Better feed something sweet (sugar or carrots).
Do the same when using medicinal aerosols from cans. The hiss of gas in itself can scare a pony, and coupled with the pain from the medication, it can cause persistent fear, which will be very difficult to get rid of later.
Plugging the ears with cotton balls before applying aerosols helps a lot. Don’t forget to take them out of his ears later! And be sure to give a treat!