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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Tag Archives: blind

What I want this year is to get back up on my horse.

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

“The Big Man Dakota” (I call him “Bigs”) is officially a pony, measuring 14 hands even. The standard for a horse starts at a height of 14.2 HH (at the withers).

While the weather is nasty and cold, I am slowly beginning stretching exercises, attempting to get my bad, upper spine to be more flexible and less painful.

This is quite the uphill battle, since progress can be non-existent at times. It seems that every day I am back to square one (I know – everyone is tired of hearing me whine). If I were a horse I could whinny instead, which is a much more pleasant sound.

Pony Stallion Yell Plus Bonus Duck Quacks

My Quarter pony’s yell is much more about getting food than his attachment to me. Yet, Bigs does trust me. That took quite some time. He arrived here as a blind, 5-year old stallion, and the blindness due to the frustration of his original owner.


Yes, Bigs is a stallion aka intact male. There are two mares across the way, yet Bigs has never attempted to visit them. Blind or not, 90% of stallions would try. Due to his calm demeanor, it seemed pointless to take anything else away from him.

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing  (readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing
(readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Bigs's tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Bigs’s tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Although sightless, Bigs functions well and sometimes acts as if he can see things coming. It has taken me up to 45 minutes to get his bridle and bit on. He tosses his head about with a total lack of cooperation (even with a Hackamore). I have a feeling this is why the former owner got so upset with him.

Blind Pony Navigates Pasture

Bigs can’t see, so he has the fields memorized by feel, getting around quite well. He no longer breaks through fences in a panic. He no longer flees from being patted. Bigs’s overall behavior is actually quite good. I can get easily get on his back and could likely lay down to take a nap too.


I purchased a very cool, used, close-contact training saddle this past fall of 2013. My aches and pains, enhanced by stress and aggravation got the better of me this season, so I only completed a parked test drive. It fits well and will work for both Bigs and I splendidly, once my hurdles ahead are cleared. In the meantime, Bigs and his companion Shetland pony “Rocky” will keep themselves busy doing what they do best – eating.


Being already run down from physical unrest, my hair-trigger temper has lately become long-term negativity. It has me wrapped up in my own mind, unable to break free of disparity in the human world. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Half of them live without running water or electricity. Therefore they have little or no access to health care, education, law enforcement, transportation, etc.

As one who attempts to follow Buddhist teachings, I must continue to practice not only patience, but also perseverance – and with this new year of 2014, get back up on that horse (pony).

nota bene: I am not looking for a Pep Rally. There is no need for anyone to cheer me on. If I get back up on that pony, that is what the future will bring. If I don’t, something else will happen next.

Chinese New Year 2014 begins January 31, 2014


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Attempting to be “One with the Horse” has always made a lot of sense. The “Big Man” Dakota is the horse that truly inspired me to give Natural Horsemanship a try.

In 2008, I purchased my first horse. She was a big beautiful sorrel quarter horse with a lovely band of white down the front of her face. This horse was also hot under the saddle. I am an advanced rider and was happy to take on the challenge of a speedy mare.

But, there is a big different between an advanced rider and an experienced owner. I did not realize that our starter Farmette was not the place for a horse with a cribbing issue. I was told that she was a cribber when I bought her, but I had no idea what an obsessive drug-addiction-like habit it was. A horse that cribs heavily needs an extra large pasture, constant workouts and careful feed management.

Also, this horse was hard to hold back. As my neck problem reached a point where my arms lost some power, our short partnership as a riding team came to an end. As much as I hated to pass her on to another owner, she needed more than we could give her. My first horse went to live on 30 acres of pasture with an able rider.

So, my horse energy now focused on our blind boy, Big Man (originally adopted to keep my riding horse company). He needed a lot of work just to get him calmed down. For several months, it actually took two people to handle him safely.

At the beginning of this year, 2010, I took my first ride on Big Man. As our bond became stronger, I realized just how gentle of a personality he really had. The jumpiness was purely fear from the blindness and nothing more.

He is so easy going when you get on him, that a big saddle with a strong bridle seemed like overkill. I tried him out bareback and realized that worked well. We sold off the heavy duty Western Saddle set and bought a well-made bareback saddle. This gives you a handle if need be and stirrups for better balance.

"Big Man" wearing a bareback saddle

He is less than fond of a bridle and bit, so I started with a jointed snaffle bit. This is easier on a horses mouth. Big Man still protested almost every time I put it on, so alternatives were looked into. I have a bitless bridle in mind, but have not gotten it yet. So, this week’s ride was with a field halter and reins.

I was surprised at how well you can control a good-natured horse without all the complicated equipment. You do have to be able to trust the horse and vise versa. This much I know now. As I gather more information and try new techniques, I will add supplementary blogs on this subject.

Big Man is learning leg, balance and voice commands very quickly. If the only thing we ever do is meander around the Farmette, I’ll be happy. But, I expect him to improve a lot with time. And, only time will tell how far we can get with our natural horseback riding partnership.

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Honestly, we are not horse trainers. We are learning in conjunction with our blind horse, “The Big Man Dakota”. Our volunteer helper, J. Gates, has experience with horses that have issues. She has helped immensely by trying out different methods to discover the best responses from him.

We have been taking a common sense approach. That direction has been geared towards gaining trust, since fear is really the only thing challenging this horse’s progress.

With every session, Big Man improves by leaps and bounds. He enjoys petting and treats and assuring voices. Getting Dakota used to the feel and smell of different objects also assists in his training.

When he is having an energetic day, walking is a common activity. He is quickly learning that he is being led, carefully, into safe territory only.

Sometimes he takes advantage and plays around, so he cannot be babied too much. He has learned to respond to a firm vocal “Stand”, which means that he needs to stand still immediately. As long as you can get a horse to stop (whatever they are doing), your experience with them will be much safer. Sometimes we even stop for a nap.


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Well, I can’t really go any farther with this Blog without introducing “The Big Man Dakota”. Lovingly referred to as “Big Man”, he is the pride and joy of Farmette 1769. His greatest contributions are shear beauty and a shining example of resilience.

Big Man has been here with us since September 2008. He is 6 years old and 95% blind. He is completely healthy. It is just that he was either accidentally splashed or purposely sprayed in the face with some type of strong chemical, the latter being more likely. His arrival can best be described as the reaction of a cat when you are trying to put it in a tub full of water. It took until last month to get tack on him.

Semi-Tacked Big Man

We were both covered with mud by the time the saddle made it onto the out of place blanket with the bridle dangling on the brink of failure. He was quite surprised with the new feel, but may have had some training, since there was no kick or buck involved. There was just a well orchestrated dance to keep the saddle from settling in a solidly parked state.

It took approximately 45 minutes to get the bit in, which he objected to with much head tossing and tongue action. Since he is very sensitive, a light bit was used. But, that reaction made me wonder just how much he’d been worked with.

Facing only fear with absolutely no aggression was positively the incentive to transform him from pasture ornament to riding partner. On the third tacked session with him, the bit took a minute to get in, and I carefully steered him around the pasture and up the driveway using both reins separately (instead of the normal one handed Western style neck reining).

Big Man is such a gift. And surprisingly, now has his very own transportation job on the Farmette.

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