Missy Mohegan’s Boot Camp
Little Missy is a 12yo Miniature Pony who is 37inches tall, that’s taller than normal.
We purchased her unbroken from Albany in September for my 3yo son. We got her feet done, wormed, vaccinated, drench and teeth done too. Then we gave her some time to settle into her new home on a busy road with exposure to lots of kids, dogs, cats, trains and planes.
Missy had been a brood mare for the first 10 years of her life at a stud that I won’t care to mention and I have no idea how many foals or handling she’d had. Her next owner started her training for her 5yo niece. The property she was on was also quite isolated.
I have a background in natural horsemanship but it had been a lot of years since I started a young horse (or young in their education) and as soon as I started working Missy, I knew that I was going to need some help.
I got in touch with Karen and as soon as she walked through the gate, I already felt better about the situation. It felt like 5mins and the issues (lunging) that I was struggling with, seemed to go away. It was clear to both of us that Missy was not really interested in connecting with us humans, her demeaned was disengaged.
The next time Karen came back for the second lesson, we talked about sending her to Mohegan’s boot camp for a 2 week intensive to have her professionally backed. Karen not only had the knowledge but the time and the resources (small experienced riders). These riders would, with Karen’s support to put her through her paces and make sure that she had the right start to become a safe riding pony for my 3 year old son.
The cost was so reasonable, that I couldn’t say no. Karen’s whole ethos is inclusive, we were welcome to go out to see Missy and what she is working on at any time that we could. While Missy was training, my son wanted to have a few lessons on Karen’s pony Briggs, so that’s just what we did. This has boosted his confidence greatly after getting off to a rough start with Little Missy. Little Missy and I had some trust issues that needed work.
From the moment that Missy stepped off the float, she settled in straight away and she wasn’t there for a holiday, that’s for sure. Everyday we received personal videos and photos of everything that Missy has been doing through the day. My so loved hearing his name and greetings from Missy as he was missing her.
While at Mohegan, every day Missy was led, lunged, ridden, massaged, ponied by a big horse, left free in the arena, tested on/over/through obstacles, had tying/patience training, had the bit in her mouth for the first time, was taken out on the road and I’m sure much more that I have forgotten to include!
We did agree to a third week, to really cement everything in place and clock up more time in the saddle. Then it was time for her to come home. Even when I grabbed her lead rope after she came off the float and I watched her as she stood next to Karen and I, she was calm, not the flighty pony that left 3 weeks before hand. It can’t be understated how much regular work can improve a horses mental and physical wellbeing.
Missy is not a young horse, however she is young in her education and means that we have to treat her as if she is a young horse. Why would we treat her differently if she was 15hh?
I soon came to the realisation that the speed of my son’s riding education was (at this stage) not going to catch up with the speed at which Missy’s education was progressing. I needed an older more experienced rider to work with to bring her on. I was also in the early stages of pregnancy and didn’t want all this time and effort that had gone into her, to go to waste.
I put a call out to my local community and met 2 young riders a 6yo and an 8yo that Karen gave their first lesson on Missy at home. We decided to continue with the 8yo rider (my little rider), who was more suited to Missy’s needs. My little rider comes every few days to visit Missy and I try as much as possible to be out there to facilitate her being ridden to further both hers and Missy’s education but the exposure alone is invaluable. I’m not going to lie, since Missy has been home, it hasn’t been a clean slate, she has managed to get her little rider off a few times – but these times are lessening in intensity and getting further and further apart. When I have set backs Karen was always happy to talk me through how I was feeling and how I couldn’t let these feelings get in the way of my relationship with Little Missy or I would be punishing her for no reason, horses don’t hold grudges.
Recently my brave little rider, who always gets back on has started doing ground work at liberty with Missy in the round yard and this is proving to be very fruitful for them both and it brings me great joy to see. My trust is building and my son has started to ride her (briefly) again after my little rider has finished.
Karen visited us at home again recently and was thrilled to see a pony who was engaged and was enjoying the work. Karen helped me clarify some things, like training Missy to pick the bit up into her mouth on her own, ways I can continue to challenge myself and Missy with groundwork and the next ridden steps for us with our little rider in the progression towards riding off the lunge. It’s slow going creating a good kids pony but I honestly feel like every time I work with Missy, the next time she has digested what we did and is ready to move onto the next thing. We have recently set up trot poles, free jumps, a key hole and barrels to help break up the training that we do with some fun activities that challenge and engage the horse and the rider.
Working with horses/ponies who are young in their education sometimes feels the sky is full of grey clouds but the sun will shine again and what a beautiful day it will be. Thank you Karen and your team at Mohegan for all of your help, guidance and support with the start of Little Missy’s new career as a ridden pony. We hope to take Missy to a Gymkhana this weekend to test her ability to adapt and settle/focus in new situations and surroundings. We have high hopes for great things to come for her!
UPDATE: I am so proud of Little Missy and my Little Rider today who attended their very first Gymkhana to complete in the Lead Rein and Lead Line competitions. To be honest, I was expecting a stressed out, flighty pony to get off the float, but she calmed quickly and was happy just to stand amongst the action. A green reusable shopping bag that someone had at the side of the ring, while we were waiting, did spook her but it was laugh worthy and considering what I was expecting, I was extremely pleasantly surprised. She stayed focused and did what she was told by both myself and my little rider while she was in the ring. We came away with 4 second ribbons and 2 white ribbons. We have Karen to thank for everything that she has done for Little Missy.
~Chels & Zeke