We thought we knew every trick in the book…….on how to box a pony for travelling. We had had everything from miniature Shetland ponies that happily hopped into the back of a Land-Rover to huge beasts that lumbered into a wagon without a glance behind, but sadly more than our fair share of obstinate and difficult loaders. But ‘Misty’ was a mystery. Misty was one of the ponies on our livery yard. She was a very fit and agile competition pony who had never enjoyed travelling, so my belief was that she needed a calm environment for this procedure. We were always there to advise or help when asked, but generally left the family to their own devices; and anyway, if it was a show day there was always plenty to do, we were usually run off our feet in any case.
Misty’s owners, the Grackle family, parents and two more than competent riders kept their three ponies with us and were successful show jumpers.
We tried to take a selection of different ponies and riders to competitions from the yard each weekend. The trouble problem?] was that Misty would hold us up.
The whole family would get more and more anxious as the preparations neared completion, voices would get higher pitched and I was often asked to complete the plaiting of the manes and tails of the ponies going to the show as their ponies would not stand still, their owners’ ‘joie de vivre’ rubbing off on them.
One particular week, we left the wagon available for them to quietly try the loading process without the buzz of an impending show. Every evening they would arrive with fresh resolve and sit for hours on the ramp feeding Misty; if she ventured in,they fed her and made much fuss of her. Hoping for a repeat success the following evening they would be heartened, but still they struggled.
Finally, when Sunday came around again and everyone else’s ponies were ready, rugged and booted for the journey,
Mr Grackle announced that a mate at work had offered him a great idea for loading a pony. You took the pony a little way from the ramp of the wagon, turned him several times until he was slightly bemused [and disorientated?] and then directed him or her at the ramp as sharply as you could. It worked a treat, he said. Never failed. Job done.
It sounded worth a try, so we asked bystanders to stay very quiet and well away from the area and let Mr Grackle have his first and best chance at a trouble-free loading. Taking the lead-rope firmly in his right hand under the pony’s head and the remainder loosely in his left hand he started the circles as described .Always walking the pony away from him to avoid trodden toes. It was going nicely and the pony was obediently doing what he wanted. Hope he wasn’t over-doing it, this was going on for quite a while! There was plenty room for him to straighten up and encourage Misty up the ramp. Still he continued circling.
Finally he took a look at the ramp himself and made towards it…………oops!. He was too dizzy himself, and fell flat on the
ramp. Ah well!