For eight years I have known Moon. He had always been "the bad boy" of the barn not just in title, but in his actions. He's always been a very mouthy pony who gets joy out of seeing us humans get all mad at him for it. I've learned to walk past him and bend so my back is just out of his reach.
He isn't really a bad pony though, he's just bored. Moon has found his entertainment in bothering us as we go about our daily business, but he is not really a bad pony. I've had a few rare moments where he's been nothing but butter, where he has sought out my affections as I try to clean his stall.
Now, as I sit outside his paddock, I have a new opinion of this little pony. He's built like a tank, a solid mass of palomino "tough man" (He's actually quite a chicken for his bad boy attitude). I get a sense of loneliness from him. He doesn't really have friends. His few human friends aren't able to come every day and he can only have pony friends through the fence. Moon is bored. He's been in search of something to do for so long.
Moon is an incredibly smart pony (aren't they all) and has been clicker trained before. Currently he has no one that can clicker train him and so I've decided that it's my turn to play with the barns resident "bad boy." I went in ready for him to be pushy, ready for him to be in my space, ready to lose a few fingers. But I was pleasantly surprised by how respectful and how gentle he was. He was excited, but he was also very in tune with what I was doing, how I was moving.
We were working on a circle, the start for shaping a free lunge. He was eager to walk along next to me, following his target, from cone to cone. He was very good, even offering a back up if he realized he was close to me while I was getting his treat from my pocket.
Today I was also teaching a new volunteer about clicker training and as I was going through things with Moon, I was explaining them. At one point while I was explaining things to the new volunteer, not really giving Moon any directions, Moon began backing up and kept backing up till I clicked and told him to come back over! At another point, while we were going around the circle, Moon was spooked by one of our little chickens. Big tough pony, huh? Moon jumped forward and his foot hit my leg in his attempt to launch away from the scary chicken. I stood still, didn't yell at him for bumping me while he spooked, I stood still and watched him. Moon turned right around and was in front of me, still a bit frazzled from the ordeal. He then stated to back up until he was about a pony length from me and when he stopped I clicked and treated. As Moon backed up, I saw the cogs turning in his head as he regained his composure. And then we went on like it never even happened! He is so smart. He not only gathered himself, but also realized how very close he was to me and fixed it without any direction from me!
Now as I sit here outside his paddock I get to watch him wander around, think through the game we played, trace the circle we made even though the cones are gone. He's by himself right now as his stall is being reinforced, all the others are in. Moon isn't alone though. I've decided that he not only needs a friend again, but he needs a job. And so, for the pony in search of a job, I will give him one.