This summer we’ve been fortunate to have abundant grass here at home. I’ve been able to put the mares out with their foals here for several hours a day while I’ve been consumed by tasks related to moving my farm this fall.
Summer pasture is a four mile trailer trip from home, and being adjacent to a hay meadow, the grass is lush. Therefore each year I undertake what I call the pony shuffle to accustom my ponies’ metabolisms and digestive tracts to the change in roughage from hay to green. I progress them from 2 hours a day to four then eight then sixteen and finally twenty four, about four days per interval. I usually do the two hour interval here at home, but this year with abundant grass I’ve been able to do the four hour interval here, too, a huge time and travel saver.
When I have foals, there’s a great advantage to the pony shuffle. They get very accustomed to loading into, unloading from, and traveling in a trailer. I always make sure my mares are excellent loaders and travelers so the foals can learn good habits from their moms.
This year, I have a pony other than a foal new to the pony shuffle. To introduce Drybarrows Calista to the sequence of intervals, I began by putting her out here with an old hand with the process, Bowthorne Matty. Matty and her foal Ross and Calista grazed around here, and I was pleased but not surprised when the first day and every day since, Calista has followed Matty’s lead, coming to me to be put back in the paddock at the appropriate time. Sometimes Calista has even just followed Matty and Ross through the gate without a halter and lead rope! When she first arrived at summer pasture, I felt rather than saw her eyes bug out at all the grass!
With three foals this year, and just a 3 horse trailer, there’s lots of hauling going on to get all three mare/foal pairs plus Calista transitioned to summer pasture. I won’t miss the time consuming nature of the pony shuffle after I move, but I do enjoy being forced to spend time with my ponies!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2019
More stories like this one can be found in my book What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.