You guys….I rode my pony this weekend.
I. RODE. HIM.
I don’t have any pictures of this because I was busy RIDING HIM instead. So….sorry not sorry?
Last Monday, I was finally freed of my walking cast on my foot, so now I’m allowed back in “good shoes” and able to at the very least wear some tennis shoes, which I have deemed good enough for going to the barn and riding in, though please don’t take that as me endorsing that for anyone else. Wear the best footwear you can at the barn, people. So all week, I was basically lost in thought about how, what, when and the level of awesome it would be to ride Smokey this weekend. I still can’t really make it to the barn after work (daylight savings time happens in a month!) so I was stuck waiting til the weekend. Not to mention the weather wasn’t cooperating. Is it ever?
In the increasingly obvious transition to old person-dom that I’m going through, I spend Friday night watching my Buck Brannaman 7 Clinics DVDs in hopes of refreshing my knowledge on where I want to start working with Smokey as a rider. I was particularly focused on getting him to stop, since I’m a big ol’ wuss. The serpentine that Buck uses is a great way to teach a horse to give to pressure, untrack his hind end and eventually stop. It’s like an emergency brake, basically. I was pretty intent on making sure we were on the same page about that since I have an immense fear he will run out of the arena and into the woods.
So, with what I could gather from the videos and assimilate into my brain for use while actually on Smokey, I headed to the barn Saturday morning.
I lunged Smokey for a while and made sure he was well aware that I meant business today. I’m surely not as skilled as Elisa was on the ground with him, but he’s beginning to see that even if I don’t cue him right all the time, he better try to do something when I ask him to move. We’re really clicking, and while he still tests me from time to time, it’s really going well on the ground for us.
Once I felt he was pretty responsive and paying attention to me, I threw on my new Tipperary Sportage helmet (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and hopped on up. Did I mention I’m a huge weenie? Because I am. I started walking him around and was just amazed at his working walk. I swear he can cover the ground a normal 16 hand horse can with his little bitty legs. But it was great. He is learning to give to rein pressure in his rope halter (I broke down and bought the Buck Brannaman Double Diamond halter since I hate my old one). With my clinician’s lead looped through the heel knot of the halter, we were sporting a modified hackamore setup which isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly better than trying to teach him to deal with a snaffle right now.
We worked on just moving around with leg cues and turning some circles while I got my balance back and he started to get the concept of moving his back end without moving his front end. All in all, it was a successful ride. I chickened out of asking him to trot by telling myself I’d do it Sunday, but I guess there are worse crimes.
Sunday was more of the same. Lots of ground work on the longeline before I mounted up. I read somewhere recently that longing is not about making them tired, but about making them pay attention; and that’s how I’ve been trying to see it. Back when I was new at things, I thought it was to get all the bucks out before you got on. I’m trying to find the sweet spot where I can work Smokey on the line and then reward him for paying attention by stopping without over-doing it. It’s a fine line because I also am a giant weenie (have I mentioned that?) and don’t want to get bucked off. The funny thing is, this horse has only bucked once, and it was the once that sent me flying. He doesn’t even buck on the line, so it’s probably all in my head. Silly human.
Once I was on him, we worked on the serpentine some. He’s a little irritated by having to bend his head around and is most definitely stiffer bending to the left than the right. That’s probably because he spends half his time while I’m on him trying to stare me down with his head turned to the right and giving me the side eye. We’re working on it. There’s a lot of miscommunication with my legs, as I haven’t been used to pushing the back end around with an inside leg cue for the most part. So learning to scissor my legs when he turns has been a bit rocky, but we’re both starting to get the hang of it. What I mean by scissoring my legs is pushing his back end around while basically opening my inside leg, but indicating that his shoulder should come in. This is used to help him understand to roll his back end over and step across his body with his back legs. It’s really pretty neat when done correctly.
We serpentine all over the arena with varying degrees of success, but ultimately did a few good ones and a few good bends and I called it a day. He was getting antsy to go back to the barn, and I didn’t want to push it too hard. We’ll be back at it next weekend with a vengeance. You know, so long as we’re all thawed out by then. We have seriously got to stop this weird winter weather, Atlanta.
Also in regard to our training: Smokey and I are on the list for a Tom Curtin clinic in November of this year. Right now I’m looking at doing just the horsemanship class, but may go ahead and see if we can get into the cow working class, depending on where we are in our training by then. This will be on the heels of the Buck Brannaman clinic that’s being held in Tennessee in October that I’m on the waiting list for, so it could be a huge time for Smokes and me. Let me know if you’re going to or interested in going to either clinic! I’d love to meet up with people.
I can’t in good faith end this post without mentioning that the world lost a truly great horse this past week. The first horse I ever really bonded with was Tetoe, and he was the master of lessons, babysitter of kids, and all around good guy. Once upon a time we offered to buy him and were refused. I was heartbroken then, but ecstatic to see him with the same owner years later at an IHSA show. He was still toting around kids and living out his golden years under the watchful eye of Amanda Garner who was even there when he passed. For anyone lucky enough to know him, ride him and love him, he will live on in our hearts forever. RIP The TeToter