Tuesday, February 9, 2021

My Dream Horse is Waiting

 I saw an ad online somewhere that said “Your dream horse is waiting. Over 16,000 horses available international” or something close to that. 

And I thought...my dream horse is waiting. Right outside my window. Which believe me struck me just as odd as any readers who have stuck with me through it all especially the Gemmie days.  I’m not a typically gushy heart horse type person.

And he is always watching me when I'm outside

Lately though Eeyore has 100% snuck his way deep deep inside my heart and I’m afraid the Big Orange Butthead is there to stay in all his PITA glory. I just really adore that big orange beast.

Which is saying an awful lot seeing how Saturday he decided to become a rearing douchebag and ended up stepping on his own damn self on the lunge line pulling a shoe and making me have to schedule an urgent farrier visit. Because apparently at 11 years old being asked to calmly work in the pasture to burn some extra calories is just too much.

But you know what? While I could be mad at him or blame him or any other such useless emotions, instead I felt disappointed in myself that I asked something of him he couldn’t do and stole some trust out of the bank. And that’s a big change from not so long ago.

Having Eeyore standing at the arena gate while I rode Hamilton did not help Hamilton's gate sourness one bit

But back to the original statement. Can you buy your dream horse? Is it possible to pick a horse at nearly random, have minimal interaction, run a vet check and it be dreamy from day one? 

I suppose so if you have more money and are better at riding than I am. But honestly? I don’t think dream horses are bought, I think they are made. Made during those hard rides where all you want to do is quit but keep going anyway. Made during those first outings when everything is going sideways but you know with more effort and time it will get better. Made during the daily interactions of grooming, feeding, blanketing. Made in the quiet moments when you both are breathing and just being. Made in the big moments when you accomplish something new or win satin.

When I brought Eeyore home nearly 3 years ago I thought I had my horse that I could do anything with. And maybe I was just stupid in my choice. He had been hoof perfect if a bit goofy during my two interactions with him. Nothing pointed to what came when I brought him home and changed up his entire life. 

Creeping on me as I walked Hamilton back to the barn to untack

Three years ago he couldn’t be trusted to bridle in the open. He didn’t load on the trailer. He pawed and jigged in the cross ties. He couldn’t be ridden in sight of the herd at home or he would freak. He refused to turn away from the arena gate. He couldn’t be ridden with a group or he’d become attached. We didn’t jump. We didn’t even go in straight lines.

Wednesday I tacked him up for what was an absolutely freaking epic lesson. He stood patiently in the cross ties. AB texted that she was a bit late and Eeyore cocked a hind leg and napped in the cross ties for nearly 20 minutes. He gave me his absolute best in the lesson and rocked it. He loads great now (or did last summer when I last loaded him). He will stand by the trailer while I tack him. He rides alone or in a group. Just not at home apparently.

Loving the view between these orange ears

The point is that he wasn’t my dream horse three years ago. With a lot of time and effort he has slowly become closer and closer to that bench mark. Where we are at now in his training is amazing. There is so much I take for granted that took a lot of repetition and consistency to teach him. As I watch Hamilton jig in the cross ties, be a butt at the mounting block (he lines up and waits until my foot is coming for the stirrup and then swings his butt away on purpose) refuse to turn away from the arena gate etc... I’m reminded of how far Eeyore has come.

I’m not frustrated with Hamilton for not being my dream horse today. He will be. Some day. With a lot of effort and time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Riding Hamilton

Hamilton is progressing steadily in his new riding career. I have zero plans for this behemoth of a baby racehorse so we are taking it slow and moving forward as I feel ready to tackle something new. 

Like walking over a series of three ground poles which he could care less about:

Initially I had Trainer AB riding him after I lessoned on Eeyore. The money was better spent on her getting him going plus I was being a bit of a wimp. Riding on my own lets me go at my pace whereas riding under instruction puts a bit more pressure to do the things I'm being told to do. 

Then last week Trainer AB hopped off half way through her time with him. She wanted to watch me up on him so she could see how we were getting along. 

We get along mostly just fine. He is still cranky about working past the in gate and a little rushy when heading towards it. Each time out is getting a little better though. In the above clip you can see him taking some odd hopping steps once he is fully turned away from the gate. That is about as bad as Hamilton behaves at the moment. I laugh at him and inform him that after a decade with Gem and almost 3 years with Eeyore he has to bring more to table than that if he wants to get out of work. 

I've even been brave enough to canter the beast

I swear we go to the right as well. Apparently I didn't get any media of that direction. 

I'm getting more and more used to his way of going. He is the polar opposite from Eeyore in nearly every way possible so it is a steep learning curve for me.  Trainer AB says I ride him well and even with his baby tantrums he is pretty fun to be around, so we keep moving forward. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

It Only Took 2 1/2 Years...

 To finally learn how to ride my horse. I guess better late then never.

Saturday afternoon was nasty. Ice was falling from the grey sky while the wind blew icy blasts against my skin. My fingers froze within minutes. Sunday’s forecast was even worse but I had missed my mid week ride due to getting my second COVID vaccine which meant Eeyore hadn’t been ridden since Sunday and I had no intention of giving him over a week off. 

The weekend prior when the weather wasn't so gross. Working on a return to jumping. Trainer AB set this up the Wednesday before in our lesson

So I bundled up and tacked up.

Eeyore was understandably spicy given the weather and time off between rides. Something clicked a few lessons ago though. You see, from the beginning of our relationship Eeyore has had the upper hand. He throws his head around, shakes his tail and throws in a little squeal for added measure. I’ve always gotten scared and backed off by this thereby letting him “win”. He’d then canter instead of walk or cut corners or stop or do whatever it was that he wanted to do regardless of what I had intended to do. Once he got his way, all the attitude would stop. Until the next time. And there was always a next time. 

This summer he bucked me off in the left lead canter. I was riding like crap due to pain issues and he took full advantage of that. During our first lesson of January he tried the same garbage. We were on a circle and I asked for canter. He stepped into it nicely but then the head tossing/tail swishing/squealing began and he lowered his front end. For some reason instead of backing off and returning to trot as I always did in the past, I took Trainer AB’s instructions and put my lower leg on, pulled his head up and put him to work in front of my leg. 

He hasn’t tried that again. 

The next lesson AB said the same thing: if he starts to act up I was to put my leg on and make him work harder while keeping within the gait and on the path of my choice. It took the entire 45 minute lesson of repeating this before he understood I was a new woman. 

He has been amazing to ride ever since. 

Back to Saturday. Eeyore was spicy. He didn’t want to walk to warm up but I did. We passed the gate and he squealed, tossed his head and got real light in the front end. I ignored him. My lower leg got firmer against his side, my reins got a titch shorter, he got out in front of my leg in a forward, powerful march.

He tried one more time when we first started to trot but that was that. We went on to have a pleasant, if extremely cold, ride. We worked on snappier up transitions. We did figure 8s. We went over a series of trot poles. I nearly was brave enough to work on canter figure 8s but after 30 minutes he was getting sweaty and I wanted him cooled and dry before night fall so I called it good and headed in. 

It took 2 1/2 years to figure this out. I finally feel like I can ride this horse at the most basic level. It’s starting to get really, really fun.