Sorry for abandoning the blog on Friday. Partly it was because I didn’t have much to say, but mostly it’s because I was busy going through and editing all the pics Michelle got from when we went to visit everybody’s favorite nugget baby last Thursday!
Which means I have a lot of media, which means I’m forgiven right? Good.
If I had any lingering reservations about Presto being away at college, they’re gone now. I wasn’t sure how he’d settle into the hustle and bustle of a busy boarding facility (he looked bored), or how he’d feel about having to be a bit more of a grownup rather than a half-feral pasture kid (he’s met the raised expectations). I knew all of this would be good life experience for him either way, but still I just wasn’t sure how he would process it all. Turns out there was no cause for concern, because not only was he half asleep munching on his lunch hay when I got there, he looked at me, sniffed my hand for a treat, and promptly returned to his hay when he realized I didn’t have one. Ouch. No loyalty in this horse. I see how it is. He doesn’t even have the decency to pretend like he misses me or cares about me at all.
Aside from a little scratch on his face (which, he’s been there a month and that’s the only new wound? pretty miraculous) he looks just like he did when I dropped him off. Or, really, better. He’s starting to get a little bit more topline I think, and he’s got more of an air of confidence or relaxation about him, like he thinks he knows some things now.
And indeed, he does know some things. Megan got him out so we could see her work with him, and she started out doing a little bit of work on the ground. The big thing she’s been working on is getting him more supple in his body and getting him to actually bend through his whole body and move both his front and hind end, so she can access all his different parts and ride him properly from back to front and around her leg. He had a tendency at first to want to drop his shoulder and resist or pull against the bit, so she made it clear that he needed to stay up through his shoulder and soft on the rein. She started teaching him that concept on the ground and then under saddle, but right now since it’s still sorta new to him she checks in on the ground for a couple minutes first to reinforce that she can indeed move all his different parts and he’s paying attention. I like that she broke it down to it’s most simplest form for him so he could clearly understand what she wanted on the ground first before getting in the saddle. The expectations were clear to him from the start.
She explained everything she was doing and why, which I really appreciated. And I completely agreed with her assessment of the things he needed to improve.
Once she got on she repeated the same things at the walk that she’d just asked him to do on the ground – making sure she could move both his front end and his hind end, get him stepping across, put his body in the shape she wanted, and change that shape easily. Access to his whole body, basically, and getting his brain tuned in.
After that they moved to trot. They’ve been working on rhythm and getting him bending in a nice shape around her leg. Without dropping the shoulder of course, which is definitely his favorite go-to maneuver. She changed directions a lot, making sure she could change the bend and still keep the shoulders up, allowing him to come more from behind. He’s gotten way steadier in the contact, although sometimes he wants to default to dropping a little bit behind the vertical. That’s not unusual when they’re first learning, so she just keeps asking him to take the bit more forward again.
As you can imagine, the canter is a bit more of the same. She noted that when he’s relaxed his canter is pretty nice and he’s able to hold a nice rhythm easily, but when he gets a bit tense he tends to get stuck and the canter goes more up and down. I’ve observed that exact same thing. She just keeps pushing him up to a light contact and really allowing him and encouraging him to be forward and relaxed, but without letting him drop that shoulder (which he tends to want to do more to the right – his weaker direction – than the left).
After some flatwork they moved on to some jumps. With the winter storm she’s really only had a few weeks to work with him at all, so she’s only jumped him once before, in a grid. This was his first time doing a little course, or trying to canter fences without guiderails to help him. Overall he was really good. As he’s learning to carry his body more correctly you can see the improvements translate to the jumps too, he’s coming off the ground with more power. There’s a pretty good jump in him I think!
By the end he strung together a little mini-course at the canter, which was adorable. Not bad for a few weeks of a work and a second jump school!
I am honestly really impressed with how good of a job Megan does with the young horses. She’s very cool, calm, and collected, and approaches different concepts with a lot of intelligence. Presto was very clearly not stressed at all, and seemed happy to work for her and calm about everything. Is he still a goofy young horse? Absolutely. But even if/when he got unfocused she just kept riding, diverting his attention to something else that would occupy his brain more. That’s exactly the approach he needs. Plus she likes him, which counts for a lot.
Now that I’ve gotten past all my initial panic about having him away from home, I’m really loving the changes I’m seeing. Enough so that I’m convinced he’s exactly where he needs to be right now, and I think it would benefit him greatly to stay there for a little while longer. The complication was that Megan is about to leave for Ocala for six weeks, but after a chat and some creative planning, it’s been decided that Presto will be going to Ocala with her. I just think he would get SO MUCH from an experience like that, where he can see a lot and do a lot and there’s everything right there on his doorstep. He can get more experience there in 6 weeks than he could get in 4 months here.
When he comes back we’ll see how we all feel about where he’s at mentally and physically and progress-wise. If we feel like he’s happy and doing great and has an actual shot at this YEH stuff, he’ll stay on with Megan for a bit longer and we’ll give that a try. If not, he can have a break and then revisit things later on. Absolutely no pressure.
I have to be honest, when I signed him up for the Futurity it was mostly just for fun and to showcase the kind of horses that WTW is producing. Just looking at Presto, I really wasn’t convinced he was that horse. He’s still awkward and gangly and wouldn’t turn any heads just standing in the barn. But you put a saddle on him and a rider like Megan in the irons and holy shit, y’all… this horse is nice. Like… nicer than I realized. I want to give him a fair shake, and no matter what he ultimately ends up doing, I want him to have the absolute best start to his eventing career that I can, so that he’s a better horse in the long run. I think Megan can give him that. So my budget will be absolutely LOCKED DOWN for the foreseeable future (and all my excess stuff that I’ve been meaning to sell for a while will actually be posted now to help fund Presto’s Ocala trip) but I feel like this is 100% the best thing for him. Seeing him there with her, all I could think was “how do I keep him here longer”. They get along great, and though I definitely do miss him at home, seeing him thrive like this makes it a whole lot easier.