How far we’ve come in just a little over four weeks! Last night I got out to the barn a little late and met up with Mary and Anna who were there to watch Lil Smokey do his thing for the evening. He was waiting up in the top of the paddock since Colors is still on Misty duty up in the barn. Colors was also getting some love from Anna after a long day at camp.
I brought Smokey down to the arena and groomed him a little bit. He still has some of his winter coat (I guess a Colorado horse wouldn’t have fully shed out by now) so he’s pretty gross – especially since I haven’t been able to wash him yet. Soon.
I forgot his boots up in the truck and was just too lazy to go grab them, so I went without those for the evening. After grooming, I pulled the western saddle pad down, let him sniff it and pretty much just plopped it on his back. He flinched a little, but didn’t step away. We did a celebratory circle around the round pen.
I’ll admit it, I’m pretty lazy about carrying my western saddle around, so I’m using my English one to get him used to being cinched up and moving with a saddle on. I’m also terrified that he’s going to have a meltdown about it and roll or do something stupid and I figure that I care less about my English one and it would hurt him less if he rolled on it. I fumbled with the saddle a little (am I rusty at riding already??) but got that on him as well. He was less impressed with the saddle, but didn’t step away from that either. He did try to bite one of the stirrup irons while I was letting him sniff it though. I walked him around with just these on to let him get used to it a little.
We came back to the fence and I pulled the girth down. I attached it on the off side (his right) and pulled it under. His ears immediately went back, but didn’t get pinned. He also turned around and looked at me, lipped my side and made it clear he was not pleased. I buckled the girth super loosely and walked him off. He’s such a drama queen! He acted like it was the heaviest thing in the world on him and pretty much set himself in donkey mode and made me drag him off. Thankfully, when we’re in donkey mode, I can usually back him up a little and then ask off again and he’ll move.
We did a lap around the round pen. I stopped him and tightened the girth a notch; no big deal. We did another lap. I tightened the girth another notch; no big deal. Another lap, another notch, another lap. We are doing just fine! I can tell he’s increasingly unhappy with having a saddle on, so I decided that maybe if he moved some, he would be less unhappy. I sent him out on the longeline at a walk WITH THE SADDLE ON!
He made it a few rounds and one direction change before he tried to trot off. The saddle flopped a little and made some noises that he wasn’t particularly pleased with, but he stopped and was controlled the whole time. I sensed that he might have a meltdown at any point, so I removed the saddle and saddle pad (unceremoniously to see how he’d handle it) and he was fine. He was a bit grumpy all night, so I didn’t want to push it too much.
I played with him while we all chatted for a bit and made sure he got some scratches in on his head and ears before I took him up to examine the wash rack again. Now, I’ll admit it. I’m a total chicken when it comes to doing stuff with horses. I don’t like to jump anymore for fear of falling off at a refusal, I hate going fast so no more barrel racing, and I’m basically a wimp about putting them on trailers. The wash rack really gets me. Smokey is pretty much fine with it, but after the few “dances” we’ve had where he spooks, faces me and we kind of dance back and forth for a second trying to get around/get out of the way of the other, it’s gotten me a little nervous that he might panic and trample me. Since the wash rack only really allows him one way out – forward and past me – I’m probably the more hesitant one out of the two of us.
Anyway, there are really two ways to get up on the wash rack. The smaller step puts you kind of into a corner with a tree behind the horse and the taller step is, well, tall for us short folks (and Smokey). The tree is close enough and dense enough that it kind of forms a wall. There’s also birds, rats, chipmunks, monsters in it that tend to pop out of nowhere and startle me, much less my already on high alert horse. I wanted him familiar with the wash rack before I tried to take him this way, so we’ve been scoping it out from the side with the most flight area first. That’s where he’s put his front end up on it before.
So I lined him up on the short step side and let him sniff around. He seemed pretty happy that the step was smaller, but wasn’t really enthused with hopping on himself. I’ll have to coax him. The first attempt had a tree monster startle him, but he really just kind of hopped his front end away a little and made snorty faces at it. I walked him away and then asked him back, which he did willingly. He walked right up to the wash rack from that side and sniffed around it. He put a hoof up and pawed a little, then sniffed again. I think if I had asked him, he would have hopped on up, but he’s nervous about all four on it, and I’m downright terrified he’ll do something insane.
So we got one foot up. Tomorrow we’ll try for all four if it’s quiet around the barn. I’m a wimp. I know. You don’t have to tell me!