Punkin' Rocker

I first met Punk when I was a teenager at the rescue I volunteered at, he came for a few months where we became buddies, but we soon adopted out. Shortly after Tank came to live with me at the rescue Punk was returned to us, he got to live in the 2-stall barn with Tank and I took care of him as part of my board fee. He was returned to the rescue from his adopter because he had suddenly become very aggressive. He would bite whoever was leading him when he gave pony rides, was rude to people and fought with the bigger horses. They hired a trainer to set him straight, he promptly trampled this professional into the dirt. He was tossed right on a trailer and sent back to the rescue. At the rescue we discovered he must have lost more than a few of the fights he started with the big horses, he had damaged ribs and a (literal) chip on his shoulder, no wonder he was such a grouch!

I took care of Punk at the rescue, but didn't do much with him until he came home with me and Tank. He became my Clicker Training guinea pig, he was so angry, so violent, how could I make him any worse? He learned to target and back up – eek! That's where I learned it was important to have a 'stand calmly' skill as well, as soon as I'd approach he'd target anything in my hands and run backwards in hopes of rewards. Ok we cleaned that up with some standing practice... We learned to lead politely, without pulling for grass or biting my hands with the target as well. We progressed to re-learning about tack (that safely avoided his sore spots) so we could go out on hikes together. We had a blast! He'd carry our lunches and we'd explore the world together! Clicker Training became our communication tool while out and about – and became my bridge of trust with him when I needed to convince him of things (like crossing the bridge really is safe).

Once we moved I set up my agility ring and he became an agility super star! There's not a skill out there he can't do! We always work at liberty, he's connected and responsive. He jumps, weaves, circles, spins, and dances freely with us at all gaits!
The years had passed and the vet declared his body sound, he had no more physical pain left due to his previous injuries, but he was too small to be ridden anyway, so we never cared... Until his perfect partner came about. Our 7 year old (now 9) neighbor, Larkin, had been working very hard to learn clicker training with her friend Sugar Plum, but Plum's soundness issues really limited what they were able to do together. Larkin slowly progressed her way toward being able to work with Punk, I thought he would be too much for her, too fast for her, but she caught right up! She learned quickly working with him on his impulse control, staying slow and calm. Gradually as he learned to restrain himself and she mastered her clicker skills – you need clean skills and precise timing to work with him. They sped up and worked on newer, bigger, more fun obstacles. Bridges, jumps, pool noodles, teeter totters, anything you throw in front of them they can handle together!
With clearance from the vet and a very eager little girl, we slowly approached the idea of riding. They've worked for 3 years to develop a partnership, communication and a great deal of love – now there is nothing they can't do together! They rock the agility course whether Larkin is beside him or on his back, they both love the trail, love puzzles and problem solving and any other games they can come up with! Punk keeps Larkin on her toes and makes sure she stays a great little trainer, Larkin keep Punk enriched and focused on the next crazy idea they come up with. Their newest venture has been painting! So much fun a kid and a pony can have together with clicker communication between them.

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