Baby Po Deserves an Update
I won’t even get into the lack of blogging. Instead, let’s talk about the baby dragon.
Poet has been living in Austin for four months now. He traveled well, although dropped some weight which is to be expected. Immediately at landing at his new home which included this magical new thing called “turnout,” he settled dramatically. Now, I know I can be a bit fatalistic, but I may or may not have warned people about my baby horse. Phrases like, “He is absolutely not to be lead without a chain!” or “Don’t be afraid to beat him!” may or may not have come out of my mouth multiple times.
But, he surprised me. I secretly hoped turnout would change Poet from baby dragon to baby angel, but the shift in his demeanor surprised me. All summer we cruised along happily. Before moving to Texas, my goal was to W/T/C him confidently by myself without being in a lesson. I know that sounds tame, but that’s the reality of life with a weenie adult ammy and a talented (but sometimes opinionated) baby horse.
However, we flew past that goal. My trainer rode him an average of 2 times a week, and I took 1-2 lessons on top of that plus hacked 1-2 times on my own. All summer long he got ridden consistently, and I began to able to treat him like a real horse. Instead of focusing on surival and steering, I began to increase the flatwork exercises we worked on—lateral work, turn on the haunches, sitting trot, serpentines, spiral in, etc. In lessons, we even started jumping little crossrails and verticals! It was a magical, happy time.
During this, I began to find new appreciation for my baby previously of a dragon variety. To be perfectly honest, I can’t talk about Simon much. Even almost a year later, it is too raw and unfair. I am no where near healed, let’s say that. Even so, I started to (and I realize this is going to sound insane) develop feelings for my new horse. Poet is nothing like Simon. He’s lazy. He has hardly any work ethic. He’s extremely smart, and always looking for an “out.” But he’s also affectionate, challenging, and overall extremely level-headed.
One windy day we warmed up for our lesson, and a rail blew off the jump. Naturally, Poet spooked a little. He spooks more than Simon did, but he’s four, hasn’t seen much, and they are never mean or naughty. So I stayed neutral, and decided to walk him back to the jump to let him know there was nothing to be scared of. Of course at that exact moment, the entire jump blew over right next to him. He spun and leapt away, very clearly yelling, “I THOUGHT YOU SAID EVERYTHING WAS OKAY AND EVERYTHING IS FOR SURE NOT OKAY!”
This left me very much out of the saddle. I’m talking body in front of the pommel, legs out of the stirrups, me leaning so far off of his neck that my brain was already saying, okay you’re going to fall on your left hip but it won’t be a huge deal probably. Admist this chaos I just kept calmly coo’ing, “Easy, whoa, easy Po” to the baby and instead of waiting to fall I found myself able to monkey back into the saddle. With me hanging off his back, he slowed and then stood still so I could get back on top. Even better, he decided the jump was fine after all and didn’t even give it a hairy eyeball the rest of our lesson. That won a ton of brownie points there.
During this magical time, I felt like a Game of Thrones episode, constantly reminding myself that “Winter is Coming.” Things were too good. My four-year-old was too mature and progressing linearly. Winter would change everything.
Now that we’re in winter, I can say that it did and it didn’t.
The biggest change is that Poet now lives outside 24/7. It was a change I was hesitant about, but he insisted. Starting in October, he began violently kicking in his stall—a behavior he learned from an ornery stallmate. We tried switching him three different times, and although the kicking stopped at mealtime it would continue when he got bored. He cut himself repeatedly, had bloody hocks that wouldn’t heal, and ruined multiple shoes. I tried kick chains, new locations, and everything but he had learned that kicking=attention. Every time he kicked, someone would either come to talk to him or even better, he’d get moved out to the round pen for some sunshine! So we decided that he was a spoiled brat who could stand to see the other side of life for a change.
Truthfully, I thought he’d be miserable out in the cold and the rain but he’s truly living his best life. I’ve never seen him calmer, and although he still gets a wild moment here and there when it’s cold, windy or dark, we’re mostly back to our perfect summer rides.
And that (finally) brings the blog current to Mr. Poet. Our plans for the winter are to continue working on our flatwork and jumping little courses in lessons. I told my trainer that I don’t want to show him until he has a change at home, so it’ll be a while before we do anything but school off the property.
Still, I continue to be excited about him. Slowly I’m learning how to “encourage” him to use his hind end and actually be the fancy horse that he is. He much prefers to loaf around on the buckle, but we’re getting there. I think the bigger achievement for me is having a horse in the barn that I can dote on and feel some affection towards. For a long time, I didn’t think that was going to happen for me again.