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And Sometimes the Sun Shines

Wyatt has been really sick all week. Fevers getting to 103F sick. Missing school sick. It means a lot of sleepless nights and worry and extra snuggles on the couch.

It also means that for the first time in five years I called off sick to work on Tuesday. Calling in sick is really difficult when your work is based on patient care and you have a schedule booked until the middle of next month. I ended up blocking off the morning Tuesday and then opening my much looked forward to Friday off (I refuse to do surgery the Friday before Christmas to avoid an onslaught of calls over the holiday) so that I was still seeing people in a timely manner. Maybe I really am a work a holic.

Lots of snuggle time for a typically very active boy

Anyway…

I had ridden him Sunday with plans to ride again Monday evening, but see above about sick child. Tuesday morning was free though and while Wyatt played a computer game snuggled in a blanket, I snuck outside and grabbed H’Appy. 

This time things were a bit reversed with him.

While I was tacking him up, he started getting really antsy in the cross ties. This continued to escalate until he began rearing. Seriously this horse doesn’t need a new bad habit. I went exploring to see what on earth he was so upset about and found the answer pretty quickly. Pete was hanging out by the pasture gate staring inside the barn.

His new memory foam lined girth is in the middle. I will review this once I’v had some more rides on it. I have two useless girths now to figure out what to do with

Having never had a horse so darn attached to other horses before I’m at a bit of a loss how to deal with him. I thought a minute. While I didn’t want to reward him by letting him off the ties, I didn’t need a rearing asshat in my barn aisle either.

I decided to snap the lunge line on him and make him work. This meant the ultimate insult: walking him through the same gate Pete was at, through their pasture and then into the arena all without getting to stop and be with the horse he was so antsy about seeing. He surprised me by following me in with barely a head shake in protest and behaved well on the line.

Once I was done with that, we walked back through that same pasture past Pete and Gem, into the barn, back in the cross ties and then proceeded to finish tacking up and repeating the walk back to the arena to ride.

Doofus will learn to be a real horse.

I’ll just ignore this corner with all the other girths I have. For someone who doesn’t collect tack, and only has two saddle pads, I have apparently collected a mass of girths. 

The ride itself had little to write about which is a major win since it’s been over a month since I last wrote that. He waited patiently to be mounted, dealt with my routine of shifting my seat around/getting into two point to stretch my legs down/fidgeting with the reins and moved off sharply when asked.

I worked him mostly in the trot to reinforce what we did Sunday and he was a bit pokey and needing encouragement but was otherwise easy going. He asked to canter only a few times and came back to trot after only 1-2 strides which was a 95% improvement from two days prior. And even though he wasn’t as “barrel horse prospect” like, his trot remained in front of my leg and responsive.

This is where I get a little confused on what to do. I want to reward him for being well behaved under saddle and for H’Appy the best reward is stopping work. Ok. I understand that. On Sunday that translated into an hour under saddle before he listened well enough to call it a day. 

Since I have no medial from Tuesday, you get life updates. We took Wyatt to a hockey game and now he is asking to be on a hockey team. Which makes sense since it is the most expensive sport he could have chosen. Sigh. 

Tuesday he gave me what I wanted immediately and so after about 15-20 minutes I gave him his pats and got off. He wasn’t tired and didn’t break a sweat but it seemed the right time to stop to reinforce that being good is easier than being naughty.

My issue is that all summer I did just that and kept the saddle time short when he listened and I think it led to a very angry H’Appy when I did lengthen the rides and introduce some extra work. He is super smart and while that plays in my favor for training, it is hard when he figures he knows what is up and it changes on him. I want him to know that work can and will mean longer, more difficult rides mixed in with easier days. 

The biggest thing I am trying to figure out is how much pressure this dude can take and how often. I already know how he reacts when he feels over faced and I don’t particularly want to repeat that again, but I also don’t feel like being stuck at w/t for the rest of my days trying to prevent an argument either. 

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A rare photo of the two of us

Of course, it is raining again so I won’t be testing out some theories I have brewing in my mind until the weekend and who knows which horse I will have under me come then. One thing I do want to return to is the 101 Jumping Exercises book. I think I made it to exercise 7 before I retired Gem and we never got to the actual jumping part of the book, but the ground pole work was really helpful in keeping the session physically low key (most were done at the walk and trot up to that point) while still giving us both something to focus on and working the brain. 

I know hacking is an option, but right now I have no interest in hacking out in the pasture with Gem and Pete. It took me years to be able to ride Gem with Pete loose in the field and she was never attached to him at all. If I try this, I fully believe it is setting H’Appy up for failure and right now building trust in the partnership is more important than lengthening my ride times. 

So we will see how this goes. For now I am thrilled to have a mostly willing partner back under me with his evasions and threats bottled back inside and I am really looking forward to playing around with him and testing some things out.  

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Still really love this meat headed goofball. 


29 thoughts on “And Sometimes the Sun Shines”

  1. I think your plan sounds good. Granted, if he’s relaxing and quiet and gives you what you want after 5-10 minutes, you need to push harder. Lol. I always found that each day/ride when they’re being good, I try and push myself slightly past my comfort zone. If maybe just working on something I’m less comfortable on. So, maybe come up with a list of possibilities. It doesn’t have to be cantering right now. But maybe some extended trot down a long side or two. Or lots of collection. Or sitting trot. Or no stirrups for a long side. Or circles (large or small). Or something. Or even some ground work exercises if you don’t want to push in the saddle (Subi and I mastered backing between and around poles one season). Either way, there are lots of little challenges that can put a tiny bit of pressure on both of you without stressing the Doofus out. And if you have an off ride or he’s crazy, those exercises can wait.

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    1. When he is being really quiet I get some canter work in too but again then I feel like “ok we have nice steady rhythm in w/t/c so… now what?” I suppose that is where lessons come in to help give me homework

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  2. I agree with Sarah. But also think days where you just go for long walks and build fitness can be really helpful. I wonder if some of the resistance to increase in rides came from fatigue.
    I’m sorry about having to work Friday. Calls on a holiday are never fun

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    1. Yeah I do love hacking out and trail rides. It’s super hard with work and family commitments to take that much time out to trailer to a system and I don’t trust him at all out and about at home. I’ll have to figure something out.

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  3. Hope Wyatt is feeling better by now! Poor kid it sucks when they are sick!! Hope Friday is not too bad for you work wise! Also i agree wtih both Nadia and Sarah, just extend the ride a few minutes. AND also since you cant get a lot done at this stage good rides are good ride no matter how short!! Can you try ground driving him (hacking him out but walking behind him) to get him out more in the fields without worrying about Pete or Gem? Or can you put Pete and Gem in the arena or up and ride him out? I am just thking of ways to get him out more.Anyway it sounds like you are doing well. I hope you get him into boot camp sooner rather than later I think having an actual place to go ride him and take lessons will help immensely.

    Glad you got the sun. It rained again here. UGH. MUD for years. So done. I am thinking of sending Remus for training sooner but then I still have Tate in mud. ICK. They are up right now due to thier brains and the rain (hey I almost rhymed HA)

    and Hockey. UGH it is expensive i have a coworker whose all three kids play. YIKES

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    1. He finally went to school today and everyone survived.

      I could put them up but I’m lazy. Truth. Ha! I mean it’s been two rides and who knows what he will be like come Saturday when it finally stops raining again. He could be back to being an asshat. It is hard for me right now because I don’t know him that well and I feel like the entire last 7 months were pretty harmful to our relationship on both sides. I want to spend the winter building some trust

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  4. Horses definitely have a built in timer, I’ve found during the rehab process. P will just stop dead at 30 minutes. When we went from 2 minutes of trotting to 3, for the first few days he’d stop at the 2 minute mark, and as the sets have increased, I’ve found that to be the case each time. It’s actually pretty funny.

    I did the same thing you did when P was undersaddle. Ride until he’s good, then quit. But that kept my riding at the same level for a veeeery long time, plus P’s super smart, so our rides kept getting shorter and shorter. So now (well, pre-injury), I vary the times. We’d have a fairly short dressage school, a long hack day, a half-flat/half-jump day that would usually take 1 hour, a short hack day, then a lesson (45 min-1 hr). Keeping the times fluctuating seemed to help him not anticipate the end based on timing.

    Hope Wyatt is feeling better!

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  5. Poor Wyatt! I’ve been down and out sick too and I’m an adult, stinks even more as a kiddo. And H’Appy’s little spotted snoot makes me so happy. Sounds like you’re on a good track with rides and lots of good advice here – mine starts rides with lots of evasions (trying to buck instead of trot, etc) but I don’t have a great solution.

    RE: hockey, my younger brother started playing at 6 and still plays in college so if you want to talk to someone who did horses and hockey, I can definitely hook you up! My parents were always like, “Great, our kids picked the two most expensive and dangerous sports!” They actually took out an extra Aflac accident insurance policy on us.

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    1. I just may contact you! First we are signing him up for skate lessons because there isn’t a deck/street hockey league around here. He has to know how to skate before he can join a team. If he still likes it after that then we will talk!

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  6. We usually stop the WTC stuff at some point in lessons, do so turn on the fore type brain power stuff, then do some poles or jumping. Pony will be grumbling about how tired he is, then perk right up for jumping, so I think you just need variety. Hopefully Wyatt is better and there is a used sports store near by to save you some money on all that gear.

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  7. Hope Wyatt feels better! Poor little guy; the crud this year is awful!
    In our program, we dead stop for a period of time to let the horse process. Usually they show us by sighing or licking and chewing that they are getting down what we’ve just done. Then we pick back up and go back to work. No walking, just dead halt. It seems silly, but it’s improved memory rentention so much!

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  8. While rewarding them when they are good for short rides is great – especially on days when we are strapped for time – like you said it can be a double edge sword. It’s one of the reasons why I love being somewhere with multiple rings, I’ll go work in one for a bit, and leave, and then go to another ring to ride and leave. I stop and sit for a while, and then start the work back up again. It’s a great way to make them realize that the work isn’t over until it’s over!

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  9. yay for having another good positive mileage ride!! settling into that routine is my favorite thing! tho yea i know what you mean about not being sure about when to keep pushing or when to reward a good behavior by calling it an early night. i kinda go with whatever feels right in the moment, tbh — i don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. sometimes when the horse is feeling really good, it’s a great opportunity to start playing with new things and see what happens!

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    1. It’s hard because I don’t really know him that well yet even after 7 months of him being here. He is wicked smart so the whole idea that every ride trains the horse for good and bad makes me want to take it pretty slow as we get back to work

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  10. I always say feel the horse out. You do need to push them outside their box eventually, some days that might be one step out, some days it might be a huge leap outside their comfort zone. But pressing them through it is how things advance and improve. You can also teach the supple aid, which is a really good way to teach a “reward” under saddle that the horses learn and enjoy.

    For now you guys are just getting back into the groove, enjoy what you can get and go from there!

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