My favorite thing about baby horses is that there’s never a dull moment. That’s especially true of Presto, who certainly isn’t lacking in personality or opinions.
We’ve been continuing our Wednesday/Saturday lunge and Sunday ride routine. I’ve been really pleased with how he’s started to figure out the balancing reins the past few weeks, I think they’re definitely helping make things click a little bit for him. Both of his weekly lunge sessions with them are generally very short, maybe 10 minutes if that. Partly because on Wednesdays I’m rushing to get back to my computer, and partly because I just don’t think he needs to go any longer than that to get the message.
But he’s a baby horse, so sometimes he chooses an evil path and his fate changes. On Wednesday I went out with his stuff to lunge him out in his field. I’ve lunged him in there before several times, no problem. I tossed his equipment on and walked out to flat clear space and sent him out. He trotted a few circles before he decided to give in to Satan’s demands and he just BOLTED. Luckily he’s never subtle when he’s naughty so I saw it coming and braced myself. He hit the end of the lunge line and flopped around like an angry fish before we repeated that over and over for the next 20 minutes. I never even got the chance to put the balancing reins on, that was an aborted mission. Instead I waited until he could give me some polite w/t and listen to the voice commands for a few minutes without being a turd, and then put him away. Some days they’re just dumbabies and that’s fine.
On Saturday we tried again.
He was back to normal, totally workmanlike and listening. He wasn’t super thrilled when it started raining on him, or when all the other horses bolted for cover, but he wasn’t naughty at all. And in fact I was quite pleased with how he’s continuing to show improvement in his carriage. He’s not fighting the bit anymore, his mouth is a little less fussy, and he has moments where he’s really coming from behind really nicely. He’s even starting to show a little bit of a desire to stretch.
It’s pretty quick progress, all things considered. I think he really just needed to figure it out on his own terms. He’s still very inconsistent of course, but the good moments are getting longer and more frequent. I also think he’s starting to get a bit stronger in his hind end and topline, which obviously helps too.
Our Pivo finally arrived on Saturday, just in the nick of time for me to use it for Sunday’s ride. I’ll talk more in depth about my initial impressions of it tomorrow.
As I was setting up the Pivo and the tripod a little group of deer decided that was the perfect time to hang out in the woods at the far end of the arena just behind C. Great. Super. Presto spotted them too and reaaaaaaaaaaaally wanted to stare. I thought I might have a real problem on my hands but decided to just carry on as if they weren’t there and see if he would settle. They stayed up there the whole ride but other than causing him some distraction at that end (ok at times it was more than “some”) and one little spook it wasn’t a problem. I was proud of him for that. Henry probably would have lost his mind. I did find myself wishing I had remembered my whip a couple times though, when he got a little too focused on looking for the deer and forgot I was there. While distractions like deer can seem really annoying at the time, I’m also really glad for them. Learning how to handle things like that are all part of the process.
Despite all that he was overall quite well-behaved. Right now these once a week rides are really fun because I can get on every week and feel a clear improvement from the ride before. Now that he’s stopped wanting to fight the bit, everything is obviously a lot easier. I can actually ride him. He’s in that phase where he hasn’t quite figured out this contact thing yet, so he bounces back and forth from a little heavy/braced to a little bit BTV, with some correct steps in between. I’m trying to really reward him when he gets it right and just keep asking him to come forward with a steady rhythm the rest of the time. He’ll figure out the middle ground eventually.
He naturally wants to be uphill, even at this awkward age, and the feeling he has in those moments when he does get it right are pretty exciting. We had a few moments in particular yesterday (of maybe 5-6 steps each) where he really stepped up with that hind leg and swung through his back and I was like DIS HORSE OMG. It’s REALLY fun to see the natural aptitude come through. I love Henry to death, of course, he’s my best boy and tries really hard, but in 6 years of work I don’t think he’s ever been as uphill as this horse is on ride 15. If Presto can be as good as Henry about the XC I’ll be mega-thrilled.
Next weekend we’re going to try to go on another adventure, this time to an XC schooling venue to just hang out and walk around and see the sights. And tomorrow we’ll talk more about the Pivo!