Poet came home midday on Wednesday, and I was there to greet him with my baby OTTB starter kit: new halter, salt lick, stall toy, and lead shank.
He stepped off the trailer calmer than Simon did when he arrived a year and a half earlier. My barn is a lot more animated than the place where Poet lived before. It’s open, with multiple barns, tons of horses and kids, a road with cars that go up and down, a train, and all sorts of stuff around. But had big eyes and I could tell he was nervous stepping off the trailer, but he walked to a gentleman to his stall and promptly started eating.
I let him settle (and flirt with his new girlfriend), and then got him out to brush him a bit. He’s totally a baby in every way. Wants to paw, wants to nibble, wants to jiggle around in the crossties, but he’s also incredibly sweet. He loves people, and hates being left alone. Definitely a needy little toddler, but I can’t lie—I love being needed.
The first day he just had to sit in his stall and look pretty, which he excels at. “Is that fancy gray your new horse?” people asked me. I never thought “fancy gray” would describe my animal, but here we are.
On day two, I showed up to the barn wearing breeches. That was perhaps a little optimistic.
Though Poet was the most quiet, lovely four-year-old I’ve ever sat on when I tried him, he’s still four. A very green four. Now that he’s gone to prep school, the rules are suddenly very different. He’s not fully sure what they are, and finding out is really hard.
Nibbling is not allowed, no matter how fun it is. Pawing is not allowed, no matter how much attention it brings. Disregarding personal space and going wherever a baby dragon pleases, also not allowed.
Prep school isn’t very much fun!
But he’s a baby, and my trainers are great at knowing when to be calm and patient and when to say no. Looking at new, scary things? Totally allowed. Walking to turnout, he passed many things I expected him to respond to without a hitch, but the water trough was so scary. Still, when he’s scared he stops and wants to back up. We go back a few steps, I wait, and then we go forward to get closer. Repeat. It’s all very reasonable, and I can see his brain figuring it out. When he’s truly scared, he’s very doe-eyed and needy for my guidance and support. I can totally do that.
In turnout, bucking and playing is totally allowed. He got to do a lot of that yesterday, and will have many more opportunities in the future. Simon was a horse that thought our California turnouts were poppycock. He’d stare at me like, Okay and the point of this is? But Poet knows the deal.
The assistant trainer did a short ride yesterday walking around the ring where Poet didn’t care at all about the other horses, the giant construction truck that came up the road while he was going around, or the colorful jumps scattered everywhere. We did get a better handle on what he does and doesn’t know, some of his bad habits, and his baby dragon reaction when he’s told that’s not allowed in prep school, sorry sir.
My trainer told me he needs ground driving, and more manners before I’m to get on. She said for me to give her two weeks. I agreed, because I knew that if I was going to buy a four-year-old it was going to go straight into professional hands. They will set me up for success, and I’ll follow the program.
So the program right now is for me to continue working on his ground manners, turnout and grooming for the next two weeks while trainers start the process of turning baby dragon into a real boy. It’s going to be a long journey for sure, but he sure is nice to look at during the process.