Lion Tamer

After Henry’s supposed near-death experience (if you ask him, anyway) on Saturday, Sunday was set to be a chill day at the barn. I got up early and did an 18 mile bike ride with my dad – finally finishing the Nessie race that took way too long thanks to my ankle – and then got to the barn about mid-morning. The big hay pasture was finally mowed and baled and open for riding, and I was hoping for a nice relaxing canter. Except I guess Henry decided the night before that he was in love with the two 2yo’s that they were turned out with, and thus was preoccupied with screaming his idiot head off.

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in his defense, they’re pretty cute.

This is why he didn’t have friends for so long. He’s so much better as a single horse. Lord give me strength. He’ll stop this eventually right? He was the only one that was concerned about any of it, of course. None of the baby horses cared one bit. No one else stands in the barn screaming for half an hour for no reason.

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So there we were, trotting around the field, Henry alternating between screaming and spooking, and out comes the barn owner with one of the minis she has in training. Hooked to a cart. I had been waiting for this day to come, Henry’s first encounter seeing this whole driving thing, and now here we were. It finally happened.

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We stopped, and he stared, but to my great surprise he really wasn’t scared of it. He seemed more concerned about the fact that something was chasing one of his minis. He was staring at him in the “omg do you need assistance” type of way. Little mini is a champion (literally, he’s won all kinds of stuff apparently) so he just trotted around the ring, all business, and after watching him make a few laps we proceeded on our way. Henry never stopped spooking at the sprinklers across the fence (that were not moving and not on, just sitting there) but he never spared a second look at the mini and the cart. This horse is strange.

After I put that dingbat away, I got Presto out. He’s entered in a FEH class this weekend (just like last year I managed to miss every single qualifier until this one, which is the last one, so if he doesn’t get a qualifying score then… oops?) so I’ve been doing a little more with him again, reminding him that he’s not feral. We did some w/t/halt on the lunge line each way, then I had him trot over some poles to try to help unlock a bigger trot.

That was all of maybe 10 minutes. Hillary was riding Dobby so I set jumps for her while Presto just hung out in the ring. If this horse ever has issues with ring traffic or keeping calm amidst chaos, it won’t be for lack of trying on my part. After Hillary was done I asked her to get some video of Presto’s best party trick – groundtying while I wave the whip around him.

don’t try this at home, kids

All the groundwork has definitely paid off. I’m trying hard to make him into a horse that is respectful but also calm and trusting. I have the benefit of raising this one myself, and I can’t help but see so much contrast between him and Henry. Even with our years of partnership I don’t think I will ever overcome Henry’s beginning, or his natural tense and nervous nature. It makes me wonder how different he would be if he’d had different experiences earlier in life. Would he be a more confident horse today?

This week I need to put Presto’s bridle back on and get him used to it again (and probably let it out a few holes, let’s be honest) and practice his in-hand stuff some more. I’m hoping that when we’re at the show he’ll decide to be a little wild and show some more active/uphill trot, because what I’m getting at home just kind of looks like he wants to go win the hack class at a hunter show. It’s hot. He’s lazy. It’s uninspired. Of course, he’s also covered head to toe in bite marks (THANKS HENRY) so that’s great. And he’s in the middle of a growth spurt. Also great. Oh well. Guess we’ll how well this judge can see potential?

5 thoughts on “Lion Tamer

  1. I always ask the same question about Q’s beginning as you do of Henry. And I’ll probably always wonder.

    Presto’s party trick is pretty great! And you’re not kidding – if he can’t handle the chaos of traffic and happenings in a ring, it absolutely isn’t from lack of effort on your part. You’ve given him an absolutely incredible start.

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