Yesterday, I said I wanted to do it my way [So What Am I Waiting For?]. For better or worse, this is my way.
A snapshot of Rodney long-lining would be a perfect picture of a second (?) level dressage frame. The head is exactly where it needs to be. The nose is tucked but attentive. The feet are stepping under. Unfortunately, as soon as he moves, you can see that it’s a false front. He is “assuming the position” because he thinks he should. He’s not relaxed. He’s not working through. He’s not responding.
The winter goal [Plans] of small victories has started well. I’ve sat on him at a halt for 10 minutes of couch time. Sunday, he marched toward the ring with a positive attitude to do his five-minute session of weave poles. (I thought about fudging the times to avoid ridicule. Points for honesty.) The theory is little steps taken every day.
I am not worried about teaching Rodney specific maneuvers. The level I want to ride, he can do in his sleep. If he will ever chillax, the technical bits are all there.
There is a plan. It’s a slow plan. With multiple, simultaneous parts.
Milton is greener than we thought. Nobody misrepresented him. I just got it in my head that he was further along in his training. I was wrong. Now that I’ve had a good long sulk, I’m ready to work with the horse I actually have.
Simultaneous Part 1: Happy Horse
Allow Milton time to adjust. I can hear the eye rolls. Two months?! How much adjustment time does a healthy, sound, sane horse need? More than you’d think. In general, we are of the opinion that horses take longer to completely settle in than humans do. They have to locate the cougar dens in the new fields, reset their tums to the new food, and train a new set of owners.
In specific, we think Milton might have something very mildly amiss. That’s the problem with a new horse. You don’t know normal. He is short-strided. Is he simply not a 10 mover? He’s still better than any sales horse we looked at. Did he strain a muscle during 850 miles of trailering? Did he pop a gasket farting while around with Rodney? Ditto the ears. Is he grumpy at the moment or is he an inherently cranky bastard? He didn’t seem so at the start [Festina], but he may have been jet-lagged. There was temporary improvement with a week of bute (which he ate without reservation, thank you). He is now back to being evil-tempered and jumpy. We are planning a course of ulcer meds.
Was this sufficient cause for him to be possessed by the devil when I climbed aboard? No. But it needs to be addressed.
Please note, Milton is not sore or lame or otherwise in obvious distress. There may be nothing wrong. Grouchy may be his baseline. It certainly was for Previous Horse.
Simultaneous Part 2: Get Help
It has been suggested that I send Milton away for training. Not gonna happen. That ship sailed two decades ago when I started keeping horses at home. No one is going to keep my horses as well as I will. No one.
Plus, I would make the world’s worst boarder. But that’s a rant for another day.
Let’s go to an alternate reality & assume I could unclench my keister sufficiently to release control of a horse for a month. Where would I go? If I had a hunter/jumper/eventing/dressage barn that I wanted to work with, I wouldn’t be riding saddle seat & buying horses from Canada.
I recognize that I need help. We took Previous Horse from the racetrack to Adult Jumpers mostly by ourselves. Along the way, there were many, um, design features that could have been smoothed out if I had been more diligent about seeking help, advice, consults, etc.
I will find someone, preferably a cowboy (or cowgirl), for First Contact – The Sequel. I will get help with groundwork. I will get the truck & trailer moving, preferably to places with solid walls off of which to bounce.
I don’t think a functional spring is out of the question. We have lots more winter to work in than north folks. Coach is all about me getting on Milton. She’s not going to let it rest.
Look for this phase to start in earnest after the last show of the season this weekend.
Simultaneous Part 3: Non-Saddle Work
Meanwhile, I will socialize Milton’s fuzzy gray butt. Grooming, long-lining, close-up groundwork, bodywork, mare walks [My Two Horses], lunging, massage, trail obstacles, stretching, in-hand trot sets. Anything and everything. To the point that a person getting on his back is just another day at the office.
I have more enthusiasm than I’ve had in a while. For both horses.
Rodney & Milton: my two opportunities.