I told you the Lion King references wouldn’t ever end ever.
I put in an order for Simba’s very own special leather halter, lead shank and nameplate from Perri’s Leather (in the metallic turquoise/black color combo — duh!) early last week. I am a name snob (among other things) and decided to leave Simba’s registered name off of the plate, and instead go with a “show name” of sorts, even though we’ll never set foot in a show ring. I chose Hakuna Matata, because Lion King, obviously. I also find it kind of funny because it means “no worries” and both of us are kind of worrywarts! The person in charge of our custom/special orders here at Dover gave me a call this morning to double check on a few details of the name plate, and we immediately burst into a sing-a-long of Hakuna Matata.
Over the phone. In separate departments.
Welcome to Dover Saddlery. We’re AWESOME here!
Once I stopped laughing and hung up with my buddy in purchasing, I started thinking about how pony boot camp is going…and it’s “going”, I’m just not sure how to label it yet.
Simba isn’t a “brand new horse”, not by a long stretch. Regular work has definitely improved him in the past two weeks, but it’s going to take a lot more for him to be a solid equine citizen. More often than not, he is a palomino fire breathing dragon as opposed to a horse. He’s certainly got a motor to him (when he wants to!) and he can be responsive and soft, but most of the time, he’s sucked back behind my leg and a snorty, uptight ball of nerves. We are working on building up fitness, and while the long, slow trail rides are good for everyone, he has SO much energy that the long, slow trail rides are a bit difficult for him. He still has an AWFUL case of the Mondays as well. He and Tory get two days off and when we picked things back up, he is okay-ish on the ground, but a headcase under staddle. Now, I’m not used to asshole horses. Frightened, unsure horses I’m 100% okay with, and don’t mind coaxing through a difficult patch. This is all new to me, and on Simba’s “Monday”? He’s an asshole, plain and simple. Bargey, resistant, “la la la la I’m not listening to you” asshole. He knows exactly what I’m asking him to do, but he’s being a punk about it…and then gets bent out of shape when I ask a little more firmly. Dingbat! Unfortunately, I really don’t have a ring to do some serious ringwork in, but I’ve decided that Thursdays (Simba’s Monday) are going to be on property boot camp days. I can’t properly discipline him half the time out and about because the trails in New England are mostly rocks, and I don’t want to kill either of us just yet.
|Clear trails! Or, as clear as the rocky-as-shit New England trails can be!|
Something that has DEFINITELY helped is that we spend 20 minutes doing ground work — general lunging in the paddock, and then quiet “fine tuning” in the driveway — before saddling up and heading to the trails. Simba has really picked up on the groundwork exercises we’ve been working on, and has really shown me that he only PRETENDS to be blonde sometimes. I do joke that he’s a dumb blonde, and sometimes I wonder if there’s a brain in his head, but he really isn’t stupid and he does pick up on things correctly provided I ASK correctly and consistently. I’m still having a brain block when it comes to asking for a hindquarters yield (seriously brain wtf), but when I ask him correctly, he responds correctly. He has been giving me softer and softer responses every time we work on these things, and he ends with his head down and letting me rub his ears. Hope is not lost! 😉
We did have two big “firsts” this past week — L and her assistant manager/right hand/awesome best friend S came to visit and take the funny yellow horse for a toodle around the paddock. The yard is still a bit squishy, so, ignoring all safety precautions about riding in a paddock with loose horses, D opened the gate and in we went. Flynn and Tory went “ooh, plaything!” and I waved my Sparkly Fairy Wand (aka my blue, sparkly crop) in their faces. They mostly backed off…Flynn made attempts to play with us once or twice, but S came into the paddock to take pictures and she was a MUCH more interesting plaything.
|Baby Flynn, who as an almost a two year old, is nearly as tall and as heavy as Simba. No, his neck is not that short…he just turned to look at me at the last second!|
Once I gaited around a bit, I hopped off and L jumped on. She giggled and wiggled her way around the paddock, but being a Quarter horse person, she had a hard time figuring out what to do with him. He obliged her with no questions, though the confused look on his face said a lot. S hopped up afterwards, and was able to get him to canter. Lots of laughter all around for all of us! I was very proud of him for taking on two completely different riders and not putting a foot wrong.
|S put a running braid in for me. He promptly rolled it out. Stinkerhead!|
Sunday we rode with someone new. Neighbor M and her ADORABLE little Connemara pony, Clara, came up the road to go for a little ride with us. We did the full loop, with Simba and I in the lead. He was in full “fire breathing dragon” mode but eventually loosened up enough to walk and gait a bit on the trails. We all laughed and talking with each other while we enjoyed the warmer weather, and were having a great time…until the Evil Ground Bird of Doom fluttered up under our noses!
The bird popped up and scared the ever loving shit out of everyone — horse and human! Simba was SO GOOD, and now that I have my saddle 100% figured out, I didn’t even get unseated. He spun away from the offending bird, I made a terrible squeal-y noise out of shock, and that was the end of it. I turned him around to crow proudly at my riding buddies that I had NOT eaten dirt (this was the first major spook since I Supermanned off the side of him), just to note that we hadn’t all been as lucky to hang on for dear life like I had…! Man down, man down! Thankfully, no one was hurt and no horses took off in the meantime, so those among us that hit the ground remounted and off we went.
This was Simba’s first trail ride with more than one other horse, and while he was sucked back behind my leg and a snorty monster, he really didn’t put a hoof wrong other than that. Rocks, however, are suddenly terrifying. So are puddles on the ground. We haven’t had issues with either of these things until the past trail ride, so I’m chalking it up to him being a dunderhead. Good thing he’s cute!
One other thing that’s a bit new is that we’re starting to move out after a week of purely walking. We’re starting to add more gaiting into the mix, and he’s been pulling out his lovely, smooth rack for me. The long, slow rides drive him nuts but they’ve been very good for his hind end, especially because the trails are basically one big hill….you ride down to the bottom, and then aaallll the way back to the top! The hill isn’t exactly an easy one, either, so he’s definitely using his butt to haul both of us back up. He is slowly gaining strength and stamina. I took a conformation picture of him two weeks ago, and I’ll be really curious to see what he looks like at the middle and end of the season!
Even comparing this to when I first saw him…
He’s not nearly as much of a fluffy marshmallow as he used to be!
In other miscellaneous news, my butt is officially comfortable in my new saddle. I am in love with the thing! It took me a little to find the magic combination between what hole the girth needs to be on, warming up the memory foam pad so it has time to form to his back, and shortening my stupid stirrups (um, duh?), I have a stable, comfortable saddle that I can work in and NOT worry about it sliding off the side. I am still tempted to give a tackaberry girthing system a shot or even a center fire billet situation from Taylored Tack, but for right now, this works just fine.
|PRETTY PONEH IS PRETTY. Yes, the stirrups were on backwards. Yes, I have since fixed this issue. No, I don’t own a brain. Any more questions?|
With all the tack stuff figured out, I just need to start learning to coordinate the iPhone again so I can start taking more pictures…no pictures of Clara, no pictures of D on Tory, very “as seen through horse’s ears” shots the past two weeks. Bad photographer! Bad! Hopefully, now that Facebook Machine is back, I’ll be getting behind my big camera again more than just once a month! I’ve been spending a ton of time down on the other side of the state with M and her motley crew of critters. I even got my big camera out to harass her ponies.
To sum up with the moral of the past two weeks? Simba is a tough critter for me. He’s probably always going to be tough. I’m coming to learn this the hard way, so hakuna matata it is. No worries. We’ll take things as they come and see what happens. I was supposed to go start our week today, but I am wiped from lack of sleep and have made the executive decision that my inability to function today + Simba’s “Monday” toolbaggery = inevitable knock down, drag out fight because I won’t have patience and he will pick up on that. See, I do learn things and can be an adult about it!
Okay I was an adult for, like, a minute. I’m done now. Can I have a cookie?