A recent Instagram post showed the new miniature horse at Chip-in Farm that was back from school. There has to be a story there. Horse? School?
So I went straight to the horse’s mouth, or the next best thing. Farmer Sandy. Chip-in actually has two miniature horses, Kid Size Clyde and Carrots. Kid Size Clyde is 15 and pretty chill and doesn’t give anyone too much of a hard time. Carrots, on the other hand, well… he’s 5. As 5-year-olds are, he, at times, can be a handful. Biting, pushing, you know, being 5!
Farmer Sandy, who is no stranger to farm animals, has always been a little intimidated by horses. Sandy’s Farmer Helper kids were always asking her to bring horses to the farm and she finally relented with the mini horses. Still, a mini horse is not small – she says they are about as tall as a Great Dane dog. Small for a horse, but still a sizable animal. When your Great Dane wants to be in charge, you know it is time to get some help.
Horses, you see, are herd animals. There are cues and body language that dictate how the herd works in concert. There are dominant members as well as subordinate members of the herd. Carrots was becoming the dominant and Farmer Sandy needed to get back in charge.
So, Carrots went off to school. Training a horse is much like training a dog. Namely, it is the people who have the most to learn. Body language, physical cues and tone of voice all set the tone for who is in charge.
Farmer Sandy thought it was a great lesson for the kids in her Farmer’s Helpers class to see that she needed to learn and adjust, reinforcing the importance of learning from experts as well as the animals. One thing Farmer Sandy kept emphasizing was how important it was to get Carrots to move his feet. I asked her what that meant. “Basically, it means applying physical and nonphysical pressure to them, getting into their space,” she said. Think of the scene from “Midnight Cowboy” – “Hey, I’m walking here!”
Carrots was always a pretty good boy, he just thought he was the leader. With the help of horse school, the herd is operating as it should.
She has a goal to have both horses be able to pull the cart together. She’s not there yet, but working toward it.
Farmer Sandy says she really enjoys the horses now and they have become a great addition to the Farmer’s Helper Program.
Other big news on the farm is that baby goats will be arriving in April, which is always a big deal at Chip-in. Goat Yoga etc. Kids love Kids!