Presto has settled nicely into his “getting less attention” routine over the past couple months. I used to get him out every day for grooming and tying, plus doing some kind of groundwork at least 3 times a week. He’s been on a bit of an off season break lately, only coming in a few days a week, and doing any kind of “work” maybe once a week.
Mostly this is because his basics are so solid that they don’t require as much maintenance anymore. He knows whats expected, and aside from being a mouthy (seriously, we’re in that stage where he wants to put everything in his mouth), over-curious, sometimes a bit cheeky yearling colt, he’s about as well behaved as you could possibly want. The fun part, though, is how he picks up right where we left off every time. His mother was almost freakishly smart, albeit in a sometimes evil way (effing mares), and he seems to have inherited the best parts of her brain. Sometimes we have to do a little bit of remedial work when he loses focus, but for the most part he learns really fast and the lessons stick.
Last week while he was in the barn for a quick grooming session, I set my dressage saddle on him. He’s worn saddle pads and a surcingle, so I just tossed it up there on a whim, figuring he wouldn’t care. He didn’t. Although he seemed slightly alarmed when I told him he looked like a proper dressage horse.
Since he hadn’t cared about that, I decided a few days later to take it a step further and have him wear a saddle for real – girthed up and in motion. I ordered him a wittle bitty 20″ girth a few weeks ago from Riding Warehouse in preparation for this, since all of Henry’s are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too big. We went out to the arena, lunged a couple circles each way at walk and trot, and then I set the saddle on him and slowly girthed it up. I sent him back out on his circle, wondering how he would react.
Yeah, no shits given.
Since that was apparently super boring to him, I went ahead and dropped the stirrups down so they could flap against his sides. After the first few steps of that he slowed down and looked at me like “Um… is that normal?” and I told him he was fine, asked him to trot again, and on he went, no further questions asked. I really liked his reaction there, though. The point of all the work we did all spring/summer was teaching him to think his way through things instead of just react to them, and we saw it in action pretty perfectly in that scenario. For him to feel unsure and look to me for guidance (rather than just blow up), then trust me when I say he’s fine… that’s exactly what we’re going for.
We did some transitions on the lunge line with voice commands, then since we were only about 10 minutes into his lesson at this point, I went ahead and tacked some of his Stand Still work onto the end of the session. Namely, standing at the mounting block quietly, and ground tying.
I stood on the mounting block, jumped up and down, leaned over him, snapped the stirrups, smacked the seat of the saddle… basically all the scary noises and movements I could think of. He calmly took a step away the first time I started snapping the stirrups, but I put him back in place and started again, and that time he stood still. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I could swing a leg over at this point and it would be totally uneventful.
Ground tying is a little bit harder for him. His focus quickly wanes as I move away, and the yearling colt brain just can’t keep his feet that still. He understands the concept though, and he’s calm about it.
We finished up with me walking a few slow wide circles around him while he stood still in the middle, which is about as good as his ground tying skills get at the moment.
This week the farrier came again, and I tested Presto by clipping him into the crossties in a regular halter (not rope) and leaving them to their own devices. No more hand-holding or helicopter mom, he’s a big horse now. And he was super.
Next we’ll start shifting our focus back to the bridle, something he is less of a fan of, and then do more long-lining. We’ve still got a loooooonnngggg time.