One of the most fun things about having Presto home for the past week and half has been getting to know him better. I mean yeah, I knew him before… I was there when he was born, after all. But aside from those couple weeks he spent at the hospital as a foal, I had yet to spend more than a couple days at a time with him. And most of those encounters were me watching him, or just hanging out with him, not really asking him to do a whole lot. You don’t learn that much about a horse until you start asking them to step outside of their comfort zone.
Having also bred and raised Presto’s mother, Sadie, it’s been really interesting to see the similarities and differences in their personalities and temperaments. They’re both very smart and pretty sensible and food motivated. Presto is a bit more willing, or shall we say, more inclined to acquiesce to something I’m asking him to do that he might not actually want to do. But maybe that’s the difference between a filly and a colt.
There are a few other definite differences though. Sadie had a severe aversion to black mats for THE LONGEST TIME as a young horse. We’re talking like she spent a solid year and half thinking they were a hole to hell, even seeing them daily. When Michele lived in Texas, Sadie actually boarded at her house for 6 months or so, and Michele’s barn had a black mat across the entrance. Sadie jumped over it every. single. time. Presto definitely notices a mat the first time he sees it, but he marches right up to it, gives it a snort, and then stomps it. He recovers from “scary” situations a lot faster too. I think he is a bit bolder than her, which is saying a lot because otherwise Sadie really has always been a pretty bold horse (um, black mats aside).
Despite a few irrational phobias, Sadie was always pretty sensible when it actually counted. When we moved from Michele’s barn to another barn up the road (by up the road I mean about a mile down the winding farm roads), my friend and I were trailer-less so we just led our baby horses down there. Sadie thought that was a pretty fun adventure, and was actually surprisingly good about the whole thing. I could see Presto reacting the same way in that situation. They seem to be naturally inclined to be inquisitive rather than fearful.
They can both scream though. Really loud. And Presto is more of a talker than she was. His first year or so of eventing might be a screamfest.
Of course, Sadie also threw some epic freaking tantrums about some of the most mundane things. She was STUBBORN, and if she didn’t want to do something your way, she was absolutely prepared to have a knock-down-drag-out fight about it. And once she was mad, she stayed mad. I was constantly trying to outsmart her, because you sure weren’t going to win a contest of strength or staying power. Presto might protest once or twice, but then he just kinda gives me the hairy eyeball, decides it’s easier to do it my way, heavy sighs, and it’s over. This definitely shows up in things like trailer loading (Sadie was not a good loader or traveler… partially because of her stupid black mat phobia and partly because I didn’t have access to a trailer to work with her on it).
When Sadie got older and became a riding horse, she turned into one of the easiest horses on the planet. I think she really thrived on having a job, and I always felt, looking back, that my biggest mistake with her was that I tried to go by the “teach them the basics but otherwise leave them alone” method of horse-raising. That method works well for a lot of horses, but for a horse like her, this wasn’t the right approach. She was too smart and too brazen and too inventive.
By the time she was 2 1/2 this had manifested in some undesirable behavior. I had been around a lot of foals and young horses, but I had never raised one myself before, so she was my guinea pig, for sure. A couple months at the cowboy helped turn her attitude around, and once she was under saddle and getting ridden regularly, she was a much happier and easier horse. She especially LOVED trail rides… exploring was fun to her. I’m interested to see what Presto thinks about hacking out in the fields. Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I think he’ll like it too.
To this day Sadie is not the most reliable about tying. I was always worried about her hurting herself, so I didn’t do enough of that in the first couple years. Once she learned she could break a halter or escape from a blocker tie ring, that was the end of her ever tying reliably. She does not forget things like that. Presto has been getting tying lessons since he was 3 months old. Not repeating that mistake!
These are the main reasons why I ultimately opted to bring Presto to my barn, where I could see him and do something with him pretty much every day. I want his brain to be occupied, and I want him to have expectations that he has to fulfill every single day. I want him to tie, crosstie, pony, see lots of commotion, load on trailers, go on adventures, get baths, get groomed and handled. He still gets 23 1/2 hours a day to himself in his pasture to go be a baby horse, but he also is expected to be civilized when I ask him to be. No “choose your own adventure”, semi-feral style of living happening over here. Some people might think it’s too much, or unnecessary, but I think it’s the best thing for him.
So far though, he’s been a bit easier than Sadie. Honestly, I think he really thrives on having something to do. He’s eager for the lessons and always seems happy to come in and figure out what’s on the docket for the day. That’s Sadie’s brain at work, which seems like such a thoroughbred trait. They both have a fantastic work ethic… Presto just has a stronger desire to please. Or maybe it’s just a stronger desire to avoid conflict. Either way, I’ll take it.
I’m really interested to see what other commonalities or differences start showing up in Presto as time goes on and we delve into more tasks. Discovering his personality has been really fun, but even more so since I know his dam so well. Raising horses is hard, but this is definitely one of the fun parts.