Railbird

If you follow me on Instagram at all, you’re probably thinking that Presto spends his entire life tied up in some place or another. While it’s not quite THAT much time, he’s definitely logged his fair share of “patience hours” lately.

crossties = boring

Since his weekend adventure with The Tree of Knowledge a few weeks ago, he’s become quite reliable about tying. It wasn’t a one-and-done for teaching him how to stand quietly, but it definitely taught him that resistance is futile. I’ve been tying him in the barn for grooming every day, either straight-tied in the aisle or crosstied in the grooming area, and he’s been rock solid. Not totally STILL, per se, he still wiggles and tries to chew on things and sometimes tries a few half-hearted stomps that are the saddest attempt at a temper tantrum that I’ve ever seen. But the thought to pull back or resist or try to escape does not exist in him at all.

Lately he has resorted to the ever-dramatic “pouting” method of coping

So, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I moved on to tying Presto at the rail in the arena while I rode Henry. He was a little mad the first time, but honestly handled it better than I thought he would. I could ride Henry right behind him and he didn’t care (I mean, he looked more mad, but he wasn’t upset). I don’t ride in the arena very often though… generally only when the fields are too wet or too hard.

prestotiedarena
second time tied in the arena
Prestotiedarean2
how I found him at the end of the session: chin resting on the railing

The next time I rode Henry out in what I call my “dressage field” – a smaller, flatter field in front of my jump field – I noticed something that hasn’t really registered with me before. Tall, very solid poles that I assume used to be part of an old fence. Now it’s a lower wire mesh fence, with my dressage field on one side and a corn field on the other, but a few of the taller poles are still in place.

So after one more session hanging out on the rail in the arena to make sure he understood the game, I ponied him out with me for a dressage ride one morning, tied him to the tallest pole (which – it is not that easy to tie one horse on a fence line while riding another, btw. Put THAT in field hunter classes!), and rode away.

Pretty sure you can hear Henry’s evil laughter

Not like… far away. I slowly spiraled Henry away from him, watching to see what Presto’s reaction would be. After all, he was tied next to a loud corn field (it’s kinda scary when it’s windy!), out in the middle of nowhere, and the only horse he could see was leaving him. This was definitely a lot different from just tying him to the arena rail, right by the barn. I could see the wheels turning as he decided what to do. It only took him about 30 seconds to choose the “good boy” option and start nibbling at all the grass that was tall enough to reach.

Got noms. Go ‘way.

I heard nary a peep out of him that day, and he’s been out on that post three other times since. I ride Henry past him and towards him at every gait, but Presto never seems to care. Sometimes he gets bored and tries to paw or pace, because yearling, but he never seems worried or upset. He’s become a bonafide Railbird.

I’m hoping that, in addition to continue developing his patience skills, this also helps make him a little more independent and not worried about what other horses are doing around him, especially under saddle. I guess we get to find out in like… 2 1/2 years.

10 thoughts on “Railbird

  1. Your posts (besides the first 6 months!!!) make raising a baby WB look so easy (because he’s so good!), but then I think, “WOW. A LOT of work goes into developing a baby horse.” Everything from what to feed them, what equipment they need, to what/when/how to train them just seems so overwhelming to me. I really enjoy reading about how you are doing it all!

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  2. All that time tied while “alone” can only be a good thing, in my opinion. Scarlet cannot tie solo to save his life and I really really wish that someone had put the effort into his baby years that you are with Presto.

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  3. He’s so smart. I’ve never raised a baby that little, so I love reading about everything you’re doing with him. I really feel like you’re setting him up to be a good grown up.

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  4. Can I send you my OTTB? I don’t know what happens when we go to a horse trials and he is theoretically going to chill out next to the trailer for 75% of the day. [sigh] (p.s. he’s 6 and nobody taught him anything before last year 😉 )

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  5. Hmm… Since no one rides in the ring at my barn I’ve been killing myself trying to figure out how to keep Bast used to horses working around him. This just might work…

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