Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yeah, I’m learning that the hard way.

Sunday? Sunday I had a completely different horse. Completely different.

It could have been a combination of things: the weather was warmer, he’d had his tiny dose of Pony Prozac (though who the hell knows if that’s making a difference?), and he’d gotten his ridiculousness out the day before. Or he had just had a bad day. Who knows? I probably won’t ever know, and that’s okay. It is what it is. Let it go.

Idina Menzel, Disney, and kickass female characters? I am in love with this movie — finally saw it today, all be my onesies!

The weather was honestly gorgeous on Sunday after so much cold and ice and snow. It was almost 40 and sunny by the time noon hit, so I did a bad thing: I played before working. I usually am pretty good about “stalls first, ride second” but I couldn’t help myself! It was too pretty and warm and lovely out! 
I didn’t even bother dragging him into the barn before seeing where his brain was at. I popped the rope halter onto his head and immediately started asking him to do things, right in the paddock. I was pleasantly surprised (read as: completely and totally shocked!) by his responsiveness and his focus. Total opposite from the space cadet I had on Saturday!
He is really starting to catch on to some little things. I can back him reliably with my voice and a point of the finger. He is learning to read my cues much better for stop, turn and face, and switch directions. I played with the “walk up” cue I’ve been trying to reinforce, as he has been a bit of a dope about coming into the barn at night on his own. D can open the back door to her barn and her horses have always managed to come in without much fuss, but once Simba was added to the mix all hell kind of broke loose. He is slowly getting with the program! Anyway, I did some flexing with him, but he’s got that down REALLY well already, so I’m not going to drill that too hard. 
His quiet and responsive demeanor made me happy, of course, but he was also connecting with me for the first time since I brought him home. He wanted to be with me, and he seemed to enjoy the forehead rubs and neck scratches he was getting. Funny little yellow horse is funny.
Apparently, I was boring him.

I didn’t waste time dawdling in the barn. I knew that rain was on the forecast for later in the day and I really wanted to beat it. So, I knocked as much disgustingness off of him as I could, and threw my saddle on him. L couldn’t make it up with her Synergist so I decided I’d figure out some way to get on and ride in my saddle. It took us about ten minutes to get it figured out, but I find that if I use a higher vantage point to mount from, the saddle stays put. That means a bunch of things (mostly that I have a fat ass, but we knew this), but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t change my decision to pursue different saddle options. I love that saddle, and it’s awesome for easy rides, but training rides or trail rides that are up and down and under and around things in it can be really tough. The horn is VERY high, and I can’t really bend down to duck under things. If I bend to the side, the saddle slips and that’s dangerous. 

Regardless, I managed to haul my sorry butt onto my horse. He was the most relaxed I’ve seen at the beginning of a ride since I brought him home. We did a little bit of schooling in the back yard in the snow, and he was tuned in and soft…so I said “screw it!” and headed onto the trails.
Then I promptly got lost.
Shut up, the lot of you. I’m embarrassed admitting it, because I LIVED with D for two and a half years as a teenager. I hiked and rode those trails many, many, MANY times, so the fact that I was a bit discombobulated in the snow and got off course…well, I felt like a moron. However, it worked out okay, as I ended up on a lovely, snowmobile-d trail that was perfect for playing. We gaited our way through the woods, and Simba was alert and seemed to be having a good time. I realized about halfway down that I was headed towards the road that lead us to the Mason Rail Trail. Now, most rail trails these days are paved and are full of bikers and roller bladers and runners and such. That’s awesome, but it makes riding on them no fun. However, the Mason Rail Trail is AWESOME because it is not paved and had lovely, flat footing. You can ZOOM ’til your heart is content! Once I realized where I was, I was able to relax a bit and got to play! 
Fluffy pony is fluffy!
I probably shouldn’t have, but with the footing so nice and the uphill incline so gradual, I couldn’t help myself. I turned him back up the snowy trail, gave him a bit of leg and kissed. It took him a stride or two to really figure out where to put his legs, but then he cantered off nicely. Hooo boy, his canter may take some getting used to. He has a true rocking horse canter that isn’t uncomfortable, but has a lot of movement to it. I giggled and laughed the entire thirty seconds we cantered, because his ears were going every which way. He definitely needs canter work, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes…hell, that’s where the rail trail may come in handy! 
I headed back down the trail and onto the dirt road. The ice had melted into a slushy dirt mixture, so we gaited our way back to the main road, and then down another dirt road. I was just passing my friend and coworker’s house when I heard a voice ask me if I’d seen a loose horse galloping about.
K, said friend and coworker, had poked her head out of the barn where her horses were busy being shod (by the farrier I’ll be using for Simba, actually!). Apparently, a loose horse had shown up at her house mere minutes before I rode by! I parked Simba in the driveway just as K’s husband was pulling back in the driveway in his car, calling out the window that he had found where the horse lived. When M climbed out of the car, K promptly took the chunky quarter horse out of the stall she had put him in, handed her hubby the lead rope, and asked him to walk the gelding back. I offered to walk with them, knowing that horses don’t usually like to go anywhere without a buddy. Simba and I lead the way up the road, while I occasionally glanced back to check on M and the unknown gelding. Thankfully, the critter was a perfect gentleman and there were no fireworks. A neighbor of the horse owner’s came to meet M and the gelding, as the horse owner wasn’t home, so I turned around and gaited back up towards K’s. My favorite thing about this whole exchange? I asked Simba to turn around and leave the other horse behind him, and he did so without flicking an ear. GOOD pony!
I was ready to head back home at that point, as my nose was a little cold and I knew I still needed to do stalls. We walked back towards home on a loose (!) rein, plodding down the road like we’ve done it a hundred million times…that was, until a whole herd of horses caught his eye! Two of my longtime friends had just returned from a trail ride with a couple of lesson students, and were walking their mounts out up and down the barn driveway. Simba called to them, and Merlin, a big, hulking black Quarter Horse gelding, nickered back. Simba was just fine with stopping for me to chat with my friends. He stood like a gentleman, even though he was painfully curious about the line of horses walking up and down the driveway.

We said our hellos and goodbyes, and Simba and I headed back home. He and I cooled out on the driveway, playing Herd the Pig (aka I giggled as he stuck his nose on the ground, ears pricked, weaving back and forth after Pepper the Potbellied Pig) and working on his response time to my leg.

I got off feeling elated and like I had a bit of whiplash from the change in demeanor. I am so proud of how he handled everything that I threw at him on Sunday. He is still reminding me of how smart and (after a little bit of protest) agreeable he can be about things. He also regularly reminds me that he can be a bit of a dope about things, so he certainly keeps me on my toes. I reiterate regularly to everyone I talk to about him that he is not a horse for a timid person…which makes me laugh, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a more timid horsewoman!

This weekend is supposed to be in the 50s and overcast. I am SO EXCITED because it’s in single digits right now and I’m 100% done with the cold. Time to fast forward to May, right??

Three more days until pony playtime again…!

4 thoughts on “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

  1. Hannah January 8, 2014 / 1:07 pm

    Woohoo, cantering!

    How long is the girth you're using with your saddle? This theory about everybody using too-long girths keeps coming up on my radar along with testimonials by people who apparently solved treeless slippage problems by switching to a shorter girth. No idea if it has any merit, but hey.

    I am a big fan of riding first. It's not like you're going to leave the chores undone, so you might as well play while the playing is good!


  2. Aoife January 8, 2014 / 10:17 pm

    What a fab way to spend the day and I'm delighted to hear it all went so well!
    Congrats again on winning the Paper Cut Christmas Contest on my blog. That photo of you & Simba is gorgeous – really captures the budding relationship!
    Can you please drop me a mail to aoife (dot) smada (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll put you in touch with Niamh to organise the photo you'd like made into a PC. 😀


  3. Madeline C. January 8, 2014 / 10:25 pm

    At least you had an awesome partner to get lost with! Sounds like an awesome day, I want to go on a snow ride so bad! Warmer weather, but snow… 🙂


  4. Amanda January 9, 2014 / 1:06 am

    The girth is the shortest I can really get through work — a size 26″ western. I think it really comes down to the rigging. L's saddle was SO solid when I mounted that it took me a minute to realize that I hadn't needed anything more than the two step mounting block. I'm hoping to have something with a tree this weekend to ride in, as much as I love my Bob Marshall!


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