Many miniature horses are sassy, spunky little things. I think they know they’re adorable, and know that since they’re small and cute they can get away with things that people would never put up with from big horses.
The camp where I’ll be working this summer has 2 miniature horses, Blossom and Midnight. The minis are adorable, and apparently are a big hit at camp. Not all of the campers want to ride, so the minis are perfect for people who still want interaction with the horses, petting and brushing them, feeding them treats, or just watching them. Plus, since they’re so small, they are great for interacting with campers in wheelchairs.
Blossom and Midnight are sweet, but they’re also pretty sassy. They have that glimmer in the corner of their eye as if they’re always in the middle of plotting their next wild plan.
During riding times, they stay in a small catchpen that opens up onto a large pasture. They aren’t allowed in the pasture, because they are small enough to get under the fence in some parts. However, the pasture is full of delicious grass and they’re always eyeing it greedily.
On Saturday, towards the end of the riding time, one of the other volunteers was leaving their pen. She was out and almost had the gate closed, and then one of the minis (midnight) barged against the gate and scooted past her.
The little paint mare went galloping across the pasture and then finally stopped to feast on the delcious green grass. Two of the other wranglers went out to catch her, armed with a bucket of alfalfa treats. Unfortunately, nice green grass is much more appealing than the hard, dry alfalfa treats that she gets all the time. So, everytime one of them approached, she’d dash way, kicking up her heels and shaking her head.
Eventually, the two other wranglers had to go tend to the riding horses, so I got to try my hand at catching the mini. I briefly tried a bit of approach/retreat, but she knew the game well and wouldn’t let me anywhere near her. Luring her into the catchpen didn’t work either, as Pretty Boy, a huge palomino gelding, kept getting in the way and I didn’t have any food that was super enticing. Midnight’s pretty fiesty, though, at one point she tried to kick Pretty Boy, who’s more than 3 times her size!
One of the other volunteers had the good idea of removing Pretty Boy from the pasture and the other mini from the catchpen. We put Blossom (the other mini) just on the other side of the catchpen fence and the bucket of treats inside the catchpen to make it a bit more enticing. Then, I got behind the mini and started herding her across the pasture in the direction of the catchpen. I let her run if she wanted, as long as she was going in the right direction. As long as I moved slowly, she didn’t go very fast. And as long as I stayed far enough behind her, I could anticipate if she was going to try and turn and run past me. Since the pasture is long and skinny, this wasn’t too difficult and eventually she ended up in the catchpen. She was panting a bit because she’s quite overweight.
Of course, pushing and herding a horse into a catchpen is not the ideal way to catch a horse, as it’s stressful for both the horse and human. However, in a pinch, it can be an effective way, especially when the horse needs to be caught quickly. (If she had escaped the pasture she would have had all of camp to run on, which would have made it even harder.)
So, that was our minature horse adventure for the weekend! Apparently they’ve gotten loose a few times before, but someone always manages to catch them in the end. I think it would be great if we could teach them some tricks or games so that their life has a bit more purpose. They seem pretty smart and are obviously food-oriented, so I think it wouldn’t be too hard to teach them a few things. Perhaps a good first command would be come when called!