Updated: May 27, 2022
…..and so a journey begins for a horse trainer in Oregon who has chosen to devote time working with two young Fell Pony mares from Mississippi. Mary had a first hand introduction to the Fell Pony breed several years ago by training one for a client. Her search to find a few of her own brought on the arrival of 6 yr. Southmoore Rayne and 4yr. Southmoore Misty, 1/2 sisters by Laurelhighland Chester. Shortly after the mares arriving at her farm, Mary brought her enthusiasm and queries on a visit to Fiddlehead Farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon where she met several Fell ponies of different ages & genders.
Mary Kautz is a trainer and horsemanship coach who teaches using reward based methods and LIMA (Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive) principles to her human and equine students. Mary has a background in English pleasure, natural horsemanship, and endurance trail competition. Her training approach utilizes modern, positive reinforcement science based methods. She follows the ethics of humane hierarchy for behavior modification which is an ethical based guide for the decision making processes of training. In addition, Mary uses ‘freedom’ based methods and she often works with equines ‘at liberty’.
Inquiry into how the two Fell Pony mares are responding to her approach, Mary conveyed that, “Both mares are eager and motivated to learn new skills. They are focused and engaged with me throughout their sessions.” Mary noted that both mares are offering responses in many tactile and visual cues. She has noted an improvement in leading and handling of hooves with both mares. She stated improvement with Rayne on patience and with Misty gaining confidence about tack and being mounted.
When starting to work with these mares, Mary also had opportunity to work with a 3rd sister, Lillibeth for a few weeks. When asked about her notes comparing working with them vs. other breeds, she found them to be, “more independent, confident, and less reactive than the light horse breeds.” Mary went on to state, “Like the nordic breeds, they can easily go on solo outings, but can be willful and require incentives to cooperate. If startled or annoyed they default to kicking at me to express their emotions. To keep safe, I do the following things: I avoid quick movements that might startle them. I pair new stimulus with clicks and food to install pleasant emotions. I increase new stimulus gradually and encourage relaxation by marking and rewarding with food. I also make my criteria clear to prevent frustration in the ponies.”
Mary shared interest in the fact that all three mares (being related) had similar common Fell Pony traits, yet showed individual personalities as well. When asked if she sees more Fell ponies in her future, Mary expressed an interest in that. She finds their level of confidence, temperament and overall energy appealing. Mary also likes that Fell Ponies are hardy by nature and compact in size. Working with her ponies in an uncommon non-traditional way will certainly be interesting for the Fell Pony community to follow. You can find out more about her methods, philosophy, and possibly her continued journey with these two mares by checking out her website: www.EarthTreasureFarm.com