My power was still out at my house, so I headed home from work, cleaned out my freezer (goodbye disgusting mango sherbet that had been living in there for months), and headed up to my parent’s house. Due to the brief relief from torrential downpours and winds, I decided to forgo going to the barn to take the boat out for a test run and get it back up to its home where it would be covered. So…Smokey had to wait. I’m sure he was heartbroken….right.
I headed out to the barn later than planned due to my lack of motivation and impending land scorching temperatures that were going to happen later in the day. I did, however, manage to go to the barn in the morning time. Smokey was out in the creek pasture, where I had not retrieved him from before, so I was certain he was lost. Dad took the dogs around one side of the pasture and I went the other until we found him, among the trees with Ice munching on some hay and staring at the pretty mares in the next pasture over.
He’s started this thing where he stops from time to time on the way in from the pasture to just look around or jerk my chain or swat at flies. It’s getting fairly annoying. I’m trying to bribe him with treats to keep him from doing it, since he doesn’t yield to pressure when he does it and gets awfully ornery when I push him around to try to make him go. So I tempted him with a carrot almost the whole way with minimum stops and finally fed it to him once he was in the arena. I think he gets that he has to accomplish something before he can eat it, as he wasn’t nearly as mouthy as usual after being hand fed something. That was a nice change.
I braided his mane in a running braid and brushed him off a little. There’s really no point when he’s out in that paddock where he can just go roll in the creek. So, I figured I would just make him comfortable and move on with my life. I longed him a little, using the whip with a plastic bag on the end since I had left my training flag in my tack trunk which was at my parent’s house without thinking. He moved off it pretty well and didn’t seem too upset by the fact that it was something different.
Jenn stopped by to help me continue Smokey’s sideways and spinning education and work on picking up feet and saddles and all sorts of things. I had been meaning to bring water down to Smokey while he was working for a few sessions as he proved recently that drinking was a priority when he drank out of the hose. So while I got a bucket of water, Jenn pushed Smokes around, much to his chagrin. He wasn’t being a particularly enraptured student Saturday but he did do some good things and demonstrated that he has retained some of the things she’s taught him.
After he drank about half a bucket of water, we decided it was time to buckle down on picking up his feet. He’s always been a bit weird about picking up his feet and having his legs touched in general, so it’s been kind of touch and go with that. Jenn tried to get to his feet first while I held his halter and was generally no help. She’s a lot braver than I am. The first few times, he would pick up his foot but immediately paw out or small it back down in a very meaningful “I do not like this” sort of way. Jenn managed to hold on a few times, but he would rear slightly and roll away from her – nothing too dramatic, but definitely off both front feet and just kind of a slow motion roll away. At least I know he can rock his weight back… I tried a few times too and got similar results. He would paw out, try to step away or fling his foot around pretty quickly. It’s something that’s going to take time. But I know it’ll be like everything else, where it finally happens and then all the sudden it’s absolutely no big deal anymore.
After we made him hop around with his feet all willy-nilly, I threw the saddle pad on him (my nice, new Diamond Wool one). I had my western saddle at the arena – for once I wasn’t too lazy to carry it down there – so I took off the breast collar, cinch and put the far stirrup over the horn and walked over to an ornery, but complacent Smokey to let him smell it. He’s seen it before, so I didn’t expect much of a reaction from him, and I didn’t get one. He tried to bite it a few times, but aside from that, he was pretty cool with it. I plopped it up on him with no fanfare, let down the far side stirrup and took him for a walk in hand. Since he has a habit of acting like his body is broken after you do something new to it, I thought this would help, which it did. He did turn around a few times to bite at it, but aside from that, he was ambivalent about the whole thing. By the way, he looks ADORABLE with a western saddle on.
Hoping to not overload him too much, I took the saddle off and decided that we had some energy left and hadn’t burned up yet (thank you, sunscreen), so we’d push for one more thing: sitting on him.
After seeing a few other mustang trainers hop aboard their horses for the first time, it strikes me that I have maybe gone about this wrong. Most other folks have opted to get on their horses bareback first and then introduce a saddle, it seems. I’m wondering if this is partly because the horses get attached to you being near their head (as Smokey has) and that breaks them of it before you start throwing things on their back, or if it’s just a personal preference. Either way, I thought I’d give it a try.
We tossed around the mounting block some and then I leaned on him a few times. My choice of a white shirt was probably the worst thing I could think of since I was laying over a dirty, clay covered horse. Either way, I kept laying over him, farther and farther, and then putting more and more weight on him. Now, Smokey is small, so it’s understandable that my hefty weight might throw him off balance, so he was having a hard time standing still while I wiggled and flailed all over his back. He took a couple steps with me like a sack of potatoes over his back, thanks to Jenn’s Pony Rides™ and didn’t act a whole lot different that if he had the saddle on.
After a few more sloppy attempts to lay over him, we decided that it was time to creep my leg over. After kneeing him in the hip a few times, I finally got my leg up to his back, we took a few steps, then I hopped off. The next time, I laid over him, swung my leg up (slightly more gracefully) and put it part way down his other side. We took a few steps and then I hopped off. FINALLY, I manned up and layed over him, swung my leg up and put it all the way down his other side and sat up! Butt to pony back! I was FINALLY sitting on my horse! Seven long weeks of groundwork and all sorts of other things and I finally got to sit on him! Very exciting! He was getting pretty fried and starting to run Jenn over when he got mad at my antics on his back, so we decided to get one good sit on him and then let him go back out in the pasture. He allowed this and was happily reunited with Ice, Colors and Misty.
I went to the barn Sunday morning with the express intent to sit on my pony again. I wanted to put his back under my butt again just to prove to myself that it actually happened.
I searched all over the farm looking for him and was about to start panicking when I took one last look near where he had been the last time in the creek pasture and found him and Ice munching more hay together. I put my Xanax away and dragged him in from the pasture, tempting him with a small handful of sweet feed.
He is really bothered by the flies. I’ve tried a couple different fly sprays and at this point, nothing seems to really work for him. I’m trying Farnam Endure next in my quest to keep him happier and more fly free. I really don’t want to have to resort to a fly sheet unless it’s necessary as I think he would pretty much ruin it immediately or get it stuck on something. If he’s not a big fan of the saddle, I’m sure a sheet would be even lower on the tolerance level. So I sprayed him with Pyranha (I know that will give him cancer in California, but it’s the only way it even mildly works for his tasty legs) and got rid of most of his fly rage.
I didn’t even bother to longe him. It was already getting hot and I knew he would be fried before too long, so I gave him a day of rest. Sort of. First, I banded his mane. He’s got half of it that tries to sit right over his brand and it’s bothering me, so I thought I would start training it (yes, his hair) to fall on the other side like it should. He looked and felt fabulous after I was done. Just kidding, he was mortified.
I threw the saddle pad on him and loaded him up with the western saddle again with pretty much no reaction. I grabbed the cinch this time and attached it on the off side and swung it under. He really doesn’t like the saddle or the cinch or anything that sits on him, I think. He’s too much of a free spirit. He tried to bite the cinch and the stirrup and meanmugged me while I messed with it, but ultimately let me lead him around with it loose around him. Miraculously, his body worked with the saddle cinched on him a little.
I undid the saddle and messed with his feet a little. He was better about not flipping them around or pawing out like he had Saturday, but I still couldn’t get a good hold of one to really see if I could hold it up for him. I guess the farrier will have to wait a little longer.
I decided that since I had finally remembered to bring my longer lead rope that I can loop into reins with me, I would try to hop up on him by myself. I tossed the mounting block around a little and then started the same laying across him mess I did Saturday. I laid across him a couple times and decided we were good to go. I hopped up, swung my leg over and sat up as he walked off from the mounting block. He didn’t go a single way I told him to and backed up a lot, but I did, technically, ride him!
I did this a few more times with some mixed results. He would walk off from the block, pivot one way or the other, back up, try to bite my foot and then stop. Once he stopped, I would hop off. I think we did this four or five times before I decided he had had enough for the day. I probably had worn his back out on Saturday with all my graceful antics and didn’t want to make him more sore if he was. He didn’t seem it, but I didn’t want to push it. He still has a lot of muscle building to do on his top line before he’s a daily mount.
All in all, a great weekend and tons of progress. I think it’s taken me this long to get on him because I’m a big old wuss. I think he was probably ready weeks ago, but I’m glad I haven’t pushed either of us too far to create a disaster. A couple of kick outs is really all we have to show for disasters thus far (knock on wood) and I’m looking forward to making some great strides in the weeks to come!