This past weekend was a bit of a whirlwind for Smokey and me. On Friday, we had a lesson with Elisa Wallace, which of course, totally changed everything again (for the better, naturally). We got a lot of groundwork refreshing which included learning that trying to duck out of the arena near the “gate” wasn’t an option. We discussed putting him in a snaffle bit since I am more familiar with using a bit rather than a bosal, and tried the bridle and sweet iron, offset dee ring snaffle I have on him again. After several laps on the longeline, he was more or less leaving the bit alone, which was great to see. Overall, he seemed pretty responsive on the ground and definitely remembered Elisa when she greeted him. We’ll get this boy whipped into shape in no time!
Elisa rode him some for me, too. I’m such a gigantic wuss about riding him right now, but she got on a worked him quite a bit in the halter and snaffle bit setup. He was surprisingly light on both and she was able to take the reins off the halter and ride in just the snaffle quite a bit as well. He’s a quick study, that gray pony. She was able to guide him in figure eights, serpentines and generally everywhere at the walk, trot and canter in the snaffle. She held off on a lot of canter work to help teach him to bend and give to the bit so all in all it was a great ride.
Now, of course, I was to hop on and give him a few rounds with my perfectly out of shape legs and comically inadequate hands. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – which was a relief. I’m totally unbalanced and out of shape, but picking up on his willingness came back pretty quickly. Thankfully, not only is Smokey a fast learner, but he’s also very forgiving of me. I had warned Elisa just how out of shape and embarrassing I would be as a rider, but she was also pretty forgiving and didn’t make me put on too much of a show before she let me quit. Smokey was pretty well tired out (just kidding – he’s a mustang) so Smokey and I headed back to the barn, he got hosed off on the washrack for the first time and turned out to roll and remake the disaster of a homeless pony he wants to be and I collapsed into my truck and headed home.
Saturday I got to use my expanded knowledge from our lesson to tune up his manners with me on the ground before hopping on him. He was pretty upset with me for a good portion of the ride, even though I started with the halter/bridle combo and then switched to the bridle only, which seemed to irritate him even more. We got to share the arena with another boarder doing some jumping schooling and the barn owner who was out to trail ride and chat, so Smokey got some lessons in paying attention, even when his friends are nearby. I tired us both out trotting circles and serpentines and hopped off.
Let me reiterate that I [me, myself, this girl] am now trotting around on my wild pony. That’s happening, guys.
These are from when I was riding him. R.I.D.I.N.G. him!
Well, let me rain on this parade some. After I hopped off on Saturday, I very rapidly saw why Smokey kept throwing his head and generally being a butthead every time I touched the bit: the corners of his mouth had been rubbed raw. Not bleeding, crusty, scabby raw, but just past the point of no hair. So my high for the day was dramatically reduced when I saw that and spent the next hour apologizing and feeding medicinal carrots and slathering on Vaseline like it would heal before my eyes.
The horrible mom gallery.
So in light of abusing my poor, beloved pony, I went to Horsetown to buy the bit that Elisa had recommended: a Myler bit that doesn’t allow the snaffle bend to bend as far, thus reducing and kind of pressure you can apply to the bars of your horse’s mouth (unless you’re terrible with your hands) and also sized it half an inch wider. PS – my tiny, 14hh pony is now wearing a 5 ½” bit. Like he has a giant head or something….oh wait, he does…
Offset Dee Myler bit
Sunday I figured we were both tired. Both Friday and Saturday, I had arrived as Smokey was taking his mid-morning nap in the sun, so I waited until much later in the day on Sunday (for his benefit, of course……….) and arrived just in time to give him a bit of a loosening up workout on the longeline before dinner. Don’t worry, I only did enough to get him a bit damp and then cooled him out plenty before he got his feed. I also tried his new Myler bit while he was lunging and found that he was more amenable to it and seemed to not chomp on it too much at all. He also salivated more with it, which should help keep the rubbing down. I’ve also done some reading and found out that putting Vaseline on their corners before you put the bit in can help reduce the rubbing, so I’ll try that tonight when I see him.
You know it’s naptime, not worktime, right?
This weekend has to be one of the biggest weekends in a long time for Smokey and me. We’re right on the cusp of being able to do all the basic things I really hoped to be doing. And not only that, but we’re doing them the right way and Smokey really isn’t balking too much at the whole riding thing. From time to time he voices his irritation at being asked to do something that he just really doesn’t think is necessary, but again, he’s willing to work with you if you’re reasonable. I’m tickled pink with this little guy. I feel like it’s been so long that I never really thought we’d get here, but now I couldn’t be happier with him and his foundation. Even if we did take it slow, we’re still doing alright.
Also, because I’m weridly into crafting right now, I bought a little wood/leather burner and stamped Smokey’s brand into his bridle. Naturally, I forgot that that it would be UNDER the extra cheek flap hanging down from the top, so it’s mostly hidden, but I think it turned out pretty cute. I’ll be experimenting in the next couple of weeks doing brushes and other leather goods with actual branding irons, too! Get excited!