While things have gone a little bit wayward with Xato, Marty has been rather extraordinary. I don’t know whether this is because he is now seven-years-old and therefore maturing (finally), or because he saw his chance to get one over Xato and seized it … like the annoying little brother that he is (to my own little brother: love you!). Either way, it’s been pretty nice. I am of the opinion that two is the optimum amount of mules to have: when things inevitably go astray with one of them, you’ve still got another to buoy you up.
The first of Marty’s Big Moments involved allowing me to approach him while he was lying down. I have never been able to do this before. Since his return from Anna’s, he has been letting me to get closer but it wasn’t until this moment that I was actually allowed to reach him. I chose not to touch him as I felt that was pushing things too far, so I merely gave him a treat and told him what a good boy he was. He was very sassy after that so I think he felt pretty good about himself.
Of course, Cash-pony had to ruin the moment somewhat by sliming me while I was down there, but oh well. I knew the risks.
A couple days later, I used Marty to demonstrate a Thing for Xato. It was at the end of a long day and, with the mules in their pens, I was pushing the heavily laden wheelbarrow of hay up to the field. Due to a combination of wanting to be done soon, and being pathetically weakened from the wheelbarrow push, I lurched towards the pens to let the mules out like a zombie on speed. Xato was deeply alarmed by this and I recognised the tense neck, dilated nostrils and shift in weight that suggested he was thinking about leaving.
At this point I hadn’t yet figured out how bothered he was by sudden movements and high energy, so I pondered this reaction for a moment and then decided to see what would happen if I did a star jump (my train of thought was that the lurching, drunken stumble approach was something I had specifically worked on with Marty at Anna’s, and I could see why it would be alarming, but I wanted to know if Xato’s worry was because of the way I was moving or because of my speed/energy).
Anyway, although I was a little distance from him I may as well have lit a firework under his nose because he did not like that at all. I entered the pen, rubbed on him, backed off, and scaled down my jumps to try and find where his threshold was; but he was so bothered that I was concerned he was going to just run straight through his fence.
So I ducked through into Marty’s pen and started jumping around in there. Marty responded by giving me an “OMGWTF?” look, and then in almost the same instant I saw him chill out and an expression of “Oh, right. We’re doing that again” replaced his initial surprise. I cavorted around the pen for a bit, pleased that Xato was watching me intently the whole time, and made a big show of bouncing up to Marty, giving him a treat, and bouncing away again. I can only imagine what our yard owners’ thought if they looked out their kitchen window at any point.
I never thought I would ever be using Marty to show another equine how to do something, but there we go.
Marty’s latest Good Boy moment was when I had to move the entire herd from one side of the property to the other. Having spent a week in the front paddock, everyone moved back to the hay field on Friday night. In the twenty minutes it took me to set up fencing in the hay field, Iris managed to knock down the fencing in the front paddock and when I went back to fetch them it was to find her and the mules rushing around and feeling very pleased with themselves (Cash couldn’t bring himself to cross the fallen fence. He is a good pony).
This meant that everyone was feeling a little bit wired. I moved Iris first, then went back for Cash. They are fine to lead together but I knew it was going to be difficult getting two of them through the gate without the mules squeezing through as well. After this, I went to fetch the mules.
My intention was to try and bring them both if I could, and if not I’d just move Xato and go back for Marty. I didn’t have a neck rope or a pen set up for him and I was expecting to spend some time trying to catch him. So imagine my surprise when he presented himself immediately for haltering!
Of course, then Xato got worried that I might forgot about him, so he tried to reach over Marty’s neck while I was doing the halter up. Then, when this plan was thwarted, he hurried round to be on my side of Marty and tried to squish himself between Marty and the hedge to reach me. I somehow managed to get Xato to stop and back up without alarming Marty, which I was quite impressed by. Xato, of course, was no problem at all to halter and so I proudly led my mules home together. They are good boys, really.