Winter is an interesting time to own a baby horse. We’ve been fortunate so far (maybe less fortunate for agriculture) to not have much rain, so Poet has been able to be in pretty consistent work for the most part. My trainer rides him a minimum of two days a week, and I’m a minimum of another two days. Sometimes he gets ridden 5-6 days a week total (don’t freak, very light work on some of those days), but he seems happiest when he gets a few days off a week. That doesn’t surprise me, because he is a lot more about petting and treats than he is working.
Though I’ve owned him ten months, it feels more like six since he was in full training in California (that he desperately needed) and I didn’t ride him all that much then. So early in our relationship, it’s hard to predict how he’s going to react and behave in certain situations. That combined with his age makes every ride a game of “Baby Dragon or Baby Unicorn?”
Some days he surprises me. It has been windy lately, and I mean really windy. The kind of wind that blows jumps over and has arena sand flying around their feet. Poet never cares. It can be blowing his tail sideways and he’s trying to play with my foot or the crop. He’s pretty good with sudden drops in temperature too. This is probably due to the fact he lives outside, but it’s still really nice to see my baby horse is fairly reliable in questionable weather that sends some of the older ones bolting.
He definitely has a spook in him, though usually it’s very kind. He might jump a little, give something the hairy eye or dance sideways. Typically, he gives me a lot of warning and it’s something that is legitimately pretty scary to a young horse—a white dog quickly running up towards the ring, a sudden move from the parking lot, a jump falling over.
Occasionally it’s a bigger deal. Last week I came off riding under the lights at night after work. For the most part, he’s very good at night, but someone was walking up from turning out a horse in the pitch black. He popped his head up towards her direction, and I thought he saw her. Maybe he did, but when the black shadowy person kept walking towards him in the black night, he spun faster than I could stick and bolted towards safety. I didn’t get hurt, and the minute I walked him back over to the scary area he was totally fine. The good thing about Poet is that he doesn’t seem to hold onto much. He is apt to forgive and forget.
The only time I’ve really been mad at him this winter was a lesson a few weeks ago. He should have been perfect. It was his third ride in a row, the weather was lovely. But “should” is the enemy word for horses, especially young ones. He wasn’t feeling it, and was a total ass about the in-gate. Every time we got near that corner, he acted as if the footing was quicksand and sideways crawled towards the gate to try and run out. Admittedly, I lost my temper, snapped at my trainer and held a grudge towards him for the rest of the ride. Not the right move, not the right move at all.
But like I said, he forgives and forgets. My trainer worked on the issue in some training rides, and the next time I got in and told myself that I would expect him to behave and would react accordingly when he didn’t. Yes, he tried to shimmy out the ingate a few times, but I popped him on the shoulder with the crop and applied a lot of outside leg and it cleared up. He’s still pretty hard to ride in a few corners of the ring. It’s not going to go away overnight, and there are days that he’ll be a total brat about it again I’m sure, but I felt like we made progress and I handled myself better as a leader.
This weekend he totally redeemed himself with an absolutely stellar day jumping in the grass ring. My trainer has not jumped him out there much, and she certainly hadn’t schooled our little log jumps in a while. Because I’m me, I was terrified at first. I mustered all my courage to trot the smaller log, and refused to do the higher one (by high, I mean like maybe 2′) until the end of the lesson.
But slowly, very slowly, I am getting more confident jumping him. If I keep my leg on and my eyes up, he’s never done me wrong (knock on wood). That may change, but he’s doing his part in the equation. I’m doing my best to do mine.
The last part of my riding equation at the moment is that I’m taking a few lessons with my friend’s trainer on one of her horses. I wanted to get someone to help me really nitpick my equitation as well as get some time riding a very well trained horse. It is so nice to have reliable steering! Plus, the trainer is awesome and is going to push me to really fix some fundamental issues I’ve been working through since I started riding in California.
My goals with Poet right now are to get his flatwork (especially walk to canter) improved so we can start thinking about lead changes. This is, of course, being driven by my trainer. So when I say goal, I should say “I hope to support my green horse to do this.” Also I want to get him off the property before too long. I think we’ll just go hang out at a show at first so he has a positive experience being around all the scary things without associating it with a ton of work on the first go round. If he’s amazing, maybe me or my trainer will hop on to school.
Though I can’t reliably determine if he’s going to be baby dragon or baby unicorn yet, he’s really a good egg. I’m not sure I could expect much better from a young greenie, and he continues to fuel my head with big dreams moving forward.