I had a really big day with Smokey on Friday of last week!
We got a lot of really great work done in the small arena where the panels had been moved out of the way for the arena to be dragged earlier. Trying to see how well we could do in this situation, I left them folded against the arena fence and went to work longing Smokey in his saddle (!) for a while. He’s really not happy about the saddle and acts as if it weighs about 600 pounds. It’s pretty heavy as far as saddles go, but nothing like he acts.
After a while, I didn’t want to tempt fate too much by keeping the saddle on him, so I took it off and did some work without it on. Since I had the barn to myself and the horses in the big pasture were in one of the back paddocks, I decided it was time to take Smokey to the big arena. He’s never been in there, but he led out there like a champ, sniffing at everything and staring at the horses who were hanging their heads over the far paddock fence to check him out.
He longed very well out here, surprisingly. He seems more fluid and willing in some cases, though he did throw a few tantrums and try to dive in at me a few times to test me out. I had him go over some ground poles at the walk and trot and he did them perfectly. Only a few times did he knock them and then learned very quickly to pick up his feet over them more.
We worked for a while just getting used to going all over the arena, looking at the barrels and the cones and poles before we headed back in. This is probably the first time Smokey has gotten truly sweaty while I worked him and he was BEAT. It was pretty cute, I must say.
Saturday, we had a very different kind of day. I’m sure that my mood wasn’t as uplifting as it was on the sunnier (though hotter) Friday morning. Smokey was a jerk about coming in from the pasture. I’ve mentioned his stop/start thing when leading, but it seems to be getting worse. He stopped several times coming out of the pasture and I made every effort to try every method I know to get him to keep on moving. He was just being such a pill.
We groomed and headed to the little arena where the panels are still set aside. We longed for a while and he did alright. He pulled on me more than usual but I think that’s to be expected with the lack of panels to guide him through turns.
When we went to leave, we tried to do our usual routine: open gate, circle away from gate, walk to open gate, stop, back, go out of gate and up to grooming area. We hit a snag, though, when Smokey decided he didn’t want to leave the arena! So I backed him easy, backed him hard, made him go back and work, spooked him, bribed him and FINALLY got him outside the gate by backing him not one inch past having his shoulder outside the gate. Then I spun him around and headed towards the grooming area at the top of the hill.
We stopped. We backed. We went back and longed until my hand hurt and he was breathing hard (and sweaty!). Then we tried it again. And again. And again. Same results every time. Not a small change, not even a little give. He is impossible. I was beginning to worry how I would turn him out if he wouldn’t come out the gate (there is no other gate). I actually made the bold move once I got him up to the grooming area (where he got lavish praise and a carrot) to turn him back around and head back to the small arena where my longeline and flag still were sitting. He walked totally willingly all the way down into the arena. The whole way, with no stops!
Then I asked him to go back out again. Nada. Stopped dead in his tracks and wouldn’t budge again. We did the whole song and dance again and nothing. I finally got him backed out of the gate JUST BARELY and spun him around and started towards the top of the hill. We would take one step forward and three to five back every time until we were back at the gate, but still outside it. I’m not that stupid, Smokey.
We ever so slowly fought our way up the hill and out into the pasture where I turned him loose. I was actually happy to have him off the end of my leadline for the day. Not a happy feeling. I had been humoring his stops in the pasture, since it seemed as long as I let him think about it, he would come along fairly quickly, but it occurs to me that if I have to get him from point A to point B quickly, right now I don’t know that I can. Something to work on – isn’t there always?