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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.