Firstly, becoming a producer was never my long-term goal - I was happily riding ponies that my mother owned, or in some cases riding ponies in the ring for other people. It wasn’t until I was approached by someone with a ‘field ornament’ who asked if I would have their pony for the whole season that I started on the ladder of being a producer.
What is pony producing?
When attending horse shows most people see producing as a glamorous profession; simply turning up on a highly polished mount and trotting around the ring without a care in the world. However, riding in the ring is the only work they see. Contrary to popular belief 95% of the work undertaken by a producer happens at the yard. There’s far more to producing ponies than meets the eye, in fact it’s made up of many elements.
Having a beautiful animal to work with is all well and good, but behind this beauty most ponies have a range of quirks. How to handle these oddities is a big part of the job – producers must work through them to succeed in the show ring.
Ponies are not robots, and whilst they may go beautifully at home in a relaxed atmosphere, they’ll almost always exhibit some interesting behaviours when faced with the pressures of a show. Whilst performing, the producer is more than likely working hard to cover up a multitude of sins thrown at them by the animal.
A happy pony is the goal – you’ll never get the best out of a pony that’s unhappy. Some ponies are happy to school in an arena, whilst others prefer more of a variety in their work with hacking and plenty of turnout. Finding out what makes a pony tick and using these learnings is the secret.
Feeding is a crucial part of producing - the pony must consume the correct rations for the work they are expected to undertake. In addition, they must carry the correct weight and appearance for the ring.
With the sometimes-rigorous life that show animals can lead, they spend more time in their stables, and on the road. Since switching to BedKind the stable environment is noticeably less dusty, both the muck heap volume and mucking-out times have reduced, and the wet patches are contained to a small area rather than spreading across the bed.
‘No foot, no horse’ is another saying which couldn’t be truer. We wouldn’t be able to show our ponies at the top level without our top farrier, Luke. He’s so dedicated to keeping the ponies’ feet in top condition that he came out to our yard before the sun had risen one morning to refit a shoe ready for the day’s show.
Relationship with the owner
Another aspect of the job often overlooked is managing the owner’s expectations and advising them which judge may prefer their type of pony. If a producer has multiple animals in their care, planning the season ahead is no easy task - logistics can be very stressful when one pony needs to go to one show for a qualifying class, and another pony needs to go the opposite direction!
Changing to BedKind has been one of the smartest moves we’ve made - not only have we saved money in time, labour, and on the muck heap, we also don’t need to worry about dust levels like with other bedding types. On top of that, the strong odours we had previously have all but gone, which means the stable environment is a much nicer place to be for the ponies and me.
Good luck for the rest of 2019, and for the year ahead!
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