Years ago, Tim took some riding lessons to see what all the fuss was about with this crazy ol’ sport I love. After a month or so, he came home really frustrated.
“I don’t understand why every ride isn’t easier than the one before!”
I legit laughed in his face. Silly husband, progression with horses is not linear! However despite having owned horses for over twenty years at this point, I’m having to re-learn this lesson myself right now with Poet.
Short version: baby Thoroughbred isn’t as, erm, quiet, as I originally thought.
I’m a pretty typical type-A, Capricorn, planning perfectionist type, which is a really hard personality when it comes to owning horses. Baby horses? Even harder. Last week my trainer began bit-lunging Poet in side reins. He doesn’t like bit contact at all, and gets mad when he’s asked to work under such horrid conditions. When I remember that for the last year of his life, the round pen meant bucking/playing and nothing else, it’s easy to understand why he’s resistant. However, he’s not coming around as quickly as I hoped.
One day he was fantastic for my trainer, and the next horrid. The one after that, somewhere in-between. While I keep hoping that one great day will lead to another, and soon we’ll all be riding him and enjoying the new baby horse honeymoon I’m waiting for, Poet reminds me that progress is not linear.
My trainer, who has started more baby horses and OTTBs than I will ever encounter in my lifetime, simply stated. “I don’t have expectations. I train the horse I have that day.”
Expectations are my jam, but I’m trying to think more like her instead of the obsessive planner type who admittedly has no chill.
On Saturday, I went out to the barn to turn him out so he could have a relaxing day out of the stall after a hard week of work. I read a book while I watched him sunbathe, romp and play a little. It was quite lovely, and I thought about the time I’d spend lovingly grooming him after I got him out of turnout.
Alas, expectations. When I got my baby horse out, he was a raging monster. I guess an hour of free time made him forget every manner he had ever learned in the past two weeks. While I did wash his tail, I spent more time contemplating releasing him into the wild than I did doting over his gorgeous dapples.
If I’m being honest, I went home in a pit of despair—thinking I had made a giant mistake. I missed my good, lovely horse whose every mood I could predict. Getting me and Poet to that point seemed like an impossibility.
After some moping (and ordering some calming supplements), I went out to the barn on Sunday with an attempt at a new attitude. He’s a baby. He’s going to have moments. He’s also only been at the barn for two weeks. We turned his entire world upside down and changed the rules. I have to be patient, trust the process and give him a fair shot. It doesn’t matter if I’m not riding yet. It doesn’t matter if I’m not riding in a month. He’s my horse now, and I have to do the best I can for him with the resources and expertise that I have access to.
So I took him out, tried to act as sweet as can be to him without any emotional baggage. We lunged in the round pen, and he showed me how well he knows his voice commands now. Sure, there were a few expressive moments but they were minor and when I told him to cut it out he came back down properly. His manners were very much intact, and he even let me clip his legs after and cover those gorgeous dapples with all sorts of product.
Before I left, I kissed his nose and promised I would try not to dump all my anxiety, hopes and dreams on him. It was a good day. The next might not be, but I’ll try to train the horse I have at any given moment.