I started working with Simba today. No time like the present, right?
Before I get to today’s adventures, it occurred to me last night after putting him away that Things are definitely different this time around. I fell in love with Image almost immediately upon meeting him. Now, don’t get me wrong, my heart goes all fluttery when I see Simba, but I’m feeling juuuust a little guarded right now. There are a lot of things I’m good at, and a lot of things I will be good at, but being careful about just how much of myself I put into my animals will never be one of those things. I’ve come to accept that. However, it does mean that after losing two horses in two years, I’m feeling a little less game about jumping into a horse-human relationship with both feet. I have a feeling that a certain yellow horse is going to win me over sooner rather than later, but I’ve got a proverbial arm out to keep him back a smidge until he clears his vet check, which will hopefully be later this week. It’s mostly self preservation, at this point. My heart simply can’t take another major blow right now.
I may also be feeling a little guilty. It is absolutely irrational, but Image is still very much on my mind. I am so happy and excited to have Simba with me, but I still miss my little black horse. Simba shares a lot of the same qualities, and as time goes on and we work out the kinks, there may be more similar things that pop up, and that hurts a little more than it comforts right now. That will change as time goes on, as he and I forge an entirely new relationship, but I will have to sort things out in my own head.
Today was the beginning of sorting things out and starting our relationship. Last night we left Simba in his stall a little “up” and tense, but really no worse for the wear. He had slid into the herd dynamic almost silently, and was quickly picking up the routine. I was — and am! — very pleased at how he’s settling in.
This morning, after nearly dying on VERY icy roads through northern MA, D and I turned out and did stalls. I slid his halter on, and was both thrilled and annoyed with the poop stains on his FACE. Yay! for being comfortable enough to lie down and get some rest in a new place…but REALLY, Simba? Your FACE? I love, love, love his coloring but oh dear…I may need to start buying coat polish and spot remover in bulk! Good thing he’s cute! He was a little concerned about Flynn leaving before him, and we had a quick lesson on patience regardless of how excited you’re feeling.
D and I peeked out the windows to watch Tory, Flynn and Simba reacquaint themselves after everyone was back in the paddock. Tory was still protective of her Flynn, but the three of them quietly munched hay together underneath the shelter off the back of the barn. Image was a little on the food aggressive side and was prone to trying to guard as much of the food as possible, so it was nice to see them all sharing space and eating second breakfast (snork!) without pinned ears or flying hooves. Good critters!
We let them finish up before braving the cold and wet. I gave Simba his first spa session before bringing him out to the round pen. D jokingly calls baby Flynn “Pig Pen” and I may have to adopt that nickname for Simba, too. Eeeew! I curried the hell out of him and then spent time picking through his mane and tail. I am, admittedly, VERY vain about my horse’s mane and tail. D saw firsthand today the amount of mane and tail products I have in my grooming box. I like to make my ponies pretty! Thankfully, he tolerated me buffing him very well. He was definitely nervous in the barn and out of eyesight of his new friends, but he wasn’t out of control or overly pushy about anything. I don’t blame him for being nervous and didn’t push the situation to a point where it could have gotten ugly. I did, however, get after him for pawing — THAT is a major no-no, and won’t be tolerated. His wiggly-ness will be worked on when he’s less stressed about moving, but pawing is something I have no patience for.
I switched out his flat halter for his rope one (which he happily stuffed his nose into…silly boy!) and led him to the round pen. I could almost see the energy coursing through him — his head was up, his body was tense, and while he wasn’t spooky, he was a little snorty. I lunged him on the end of the line very briefly before turning him loose.
|How can you not love that color on him??|
Simba, to his credit, didn’t shut down mentally or go completely spastic. He was spunky, but not insane. It took him some time to focus, but he wasn’t completely tuned out to what I was asking him, either. I also LOVED the fact that he didn’t buck ONCE during his happy fun time in the round pen. I also observed that he was very, very careful about where he put his feet (the round pen is on a bit of a slope in the backyard — D’s property is basically one big hill, which is GREAT for hill work but a little bit tricky for flat work!) and how he balances himself. That may be different when someone is on his back, but it was encouraging to see that he was really thinking about shifting his weight around to minimize the possibility of hitting the ground.
|Dolly the Border Collie making sure that pesky horse stays right where he’s supposed to!|
He and I fumbled about kind of awkwardly for the first few minutes. I’ve had a lot of influences over the years in regards to groundwork, and finding out what works for which horse is sometimes a challenge. D has been doing this a lot longer than I have, and was REALLY helpful during this first test run. When I round pen, my usual go-to “stop” cue is stepping in front of the drive line. Image had picked up on this quick, both on and off the line, but I always felt a bit like there had to be a better way to communicate what I was looking for. This cue didn’t seem to translate well with Simba, who blew through my command nearly every time. D offered an alternative, and I didn’t hesitate to give it a shot.
Instead of cutting him off by stepping in front of his nose, I asked him to come in to me by backing up. This, essentially, cuts him off a little later and draws his energy towards me, encouraging him to turn, face, and walk up to me. It took us both a few times to get it, but it wasn’t long before he had given me on fairly good turn/face/approach on cue. We quit there, with him standing in front of me, a bit sweaty, but a LOT more level headed. This horse has a lot of energy and a lot of power…with his brain intact, he is going to be a BLAST with all of his gogogogogogo electricity. He needs to put it somewhere productive, and I’m hoping to channel as much of it as possible through groundwork, trick training, and riding.
|Love the soft expression here. Good boy!|
The other thing I observed is that he is definitely more on the dominant side of things. M and I both have a sneaking suspicion that he may have been gelded a little later than most. He has no true “studdish” tendencies, but he does toss his head much like a stallion would do. He is more likely to challenge than submit, and definitely needs someone who isn’t going to be intimidated by his showy attitude. He hasn’t given me ANY reason to believe his bite is worse than his bark, and he doesn’t strike me as a horse who truly has a mean bone in his body, but it is something I will be paying close attention to. There can only be one royal in this dictatorship, and that’s going to be me, damn it!
|Sassy pony is sassy!|
I walked him out and was very pleased at his demeanor after getting some of the excess, nervous energy out. I had a much quieter boy with a happier brain and a softer response to me all around. I am thrilled to see that this is his response to just a little bit of work, and hope that we can make this who he is on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure regular work is going to be the key to success here — anything to work his brain, really — and he will be fabulous.
I am excited to see where this goes. Next weekend will be a lot more telling of where he actually is, as he’s had some time to settle in and figure out the routine. Dr. McGee will hopefully be out this week to do a vet check. I’m off to start researching trick training!