Mother Nature has had a rather downing effect on the whole training process for Smokey and me lately. Last week I got to see the little pony only once and we didn’t even get to do much due to rain and general life happenings.
This past weekend, however, is a different story. A combination of having to use some vacation days as well as a threatening, but not raining, weekend allowed me to get some real progress accomplished with the pony.
On Friday, I headed out in the afternoon, determined to progress with the riding part of our training. I’m unbalanced, out of shape and generally worthless on horseback right now, so it’s a workout for both of us. We did some ground work and longed a little bit but then I hopped right up on him and gave it a whirl. I was expecting to just basically sit on him until he got mad at my flailing or did something, but I didn’t expect for him to do something right away. I tapped with my left foot and he pivoted! I couldn’t believe it and I immediately bailed and gave him a carrot and praises. I think he thought something was wrong with how fast I hopped off, but I wanted to make sure he was fully aware that I was extraordinarily happy with him. I think he go the picture. I think all of Jenn’s pushing him around on the ground finally translated to under-saddle, and that is SUPER exciting.
Since he had done something so amazing, I decided to let that be the end of the day. I walked him out to the pasture where some lessons were going on and hung out and talked for a while. He ate some grass and stared at things in the pasture he hadn’t been out in, but was generally content to just be around for a while. He really is just a giant puppy.
Saturday and Sunday were pretty unremarkable. It rained or threatened rain both days. I will say that after having a horse that went bananas when it was about to storm or when it was windy made me wary of how Smokey would react to the weather, but he was rock solid both days even when it was blustery. I was kind of shocked, though I’m not sure why since he was, ya know, wild at one point.
We did get a chance to go out in the main ring and do some ground poles and maneuver around some barrels I set up for him. He isn’t too clear on the whole ground pole thing, though he does like to follow the end that drags in the footing when I move them around. I think he is trying to understand why it leaves a mark.
I also tried to get him to canter, unsuccessfully, while we were out in the big ring. I had noticed that as of late his big, floaty trot had gone missing and I wondered if he just needed a jolt to his system to get it back, which he did. While he was much more inclined to move his feet more rapidly out there, he wasn’t willing to break into the canter without also trying to take off in a straight line. We’re working on it. I may have to put the round pen up again to see if he’ll free-canter instead of having him on the line. After all the commotion of trying to get him to canter, his big trot was pretty much back the next few times we worked, so I think sometimes he just needs to be reminded that he can, in fact, move his feet.
One thing he reminded me of when I asked him to canter is just how much of an athlete lives in that little body. Every time he would take off and come to the end of the line he would swing around and do this just amazing sideways skid to a stop where I realized just how athletic he was. He knows where his feet are 100% of the time, and it’s fascinating. I really haven’t seen another horse put it all together like that, especially not when they’re trying to “bolt.” I use “bolt” loosely since I know he would immediately break to a trot and probably a walk as soon as I stopped chasing him with the flag.
Here’s a couple videos of him from yesterday (Please excuse the really loud clicking. He is REALLY lazy.)
I’ve decided that maybe he’s bored with just going in circles all the time, so I’m trying to mix things up for him. At the end of every session, I let him off his lead and try to get him to play with me. I’m trying to teach him to trot to me when I call him, but he is about as lazy as they come, so he’ll only power walk sometimes.
Yesterday (yes, I had Friday AND Monday off!), I decided that I needed to get on his back even more. So we longed to get some focus, then I hopped on. We fought about where we were going for a few minutes and I realized he wasn’t paying any attention me. I hopped back off and longed for a while longer until he was really giving me his full attention, then hopped back on. We fought for a few minutes with him tossing his head, turning into my leg pressure, trying to bite my foot, but then he started to get the hang of it. We walked around the arena a few times and spent the most time I have to date on his back (which admittedly, isn’t long). I hopped off before he got really upset with me and turned him out.
I’m so pleased with where he is right now, that it’s hard to express. I know he could be much farther along than this, but I’m happy that he’s getting to go at his own pace. And based on the fact that the rain and various life happenings have been happening, I’ve not been able to see him as much as I originally thought I would, we’re still coming along well. I’m really going to press hard to get riding more and then saddle time. I think he’s ready, and I know I’m ready to be on his back more than on the ground with him. Though, I do love my Smokey cuddles…