If you know me at all, you know I’m not a holiday person. My usual excuse is my job, but seeing as I’m no longer a customer service lackey, I don’t have that to hide behind. The magic of the holidays was squashed many, many years ago and I don’t expect it to ever come back. I’m okay with that. It is what it is, and I’ve become a talented actress over the years so my Scrooge attitude doesn’t bother anyone else. At this rate, I should be nominated for a damn Oscar.
Anyway, this year has been significantly easier with the lack of pissy customers and a lack of places I have to be — my family didn’t get together until today (which I sadly had to skip anyway due to a nasty virus that’s knocked me on my ass), and the folks I live with were out in Arizona, so I spent Christmas burrowed in a pile of blankets playing video games. It’s been a much brighter holiday season because of lack of pressure.
It’s also been significantly brighter because of a certain little grey beast.
We are getting along quite well and are figuring each other out. The more I learn about him and the more he reveals himself to me, the more I adore him. Groundwork has come quite far in just the past two weeks. Last weekend, for the first time, his attention was completely on me without me having to remind him to give me eyes and ears whenever he wasn’t actively doing something. He’s also gotten the idea of turning on the lunge line — all I need to do is slide my hand down the line and invite him to turn in, and he’s already turning. He’s also figured out how to differentiate that from a whoa…which he has also gotten loads better about. Stopping and standing has not ever been his thing, especially under saddle, so achieving it on the ground was a good step in that direction.
There are also little things that he’s doing that are indicative of a progressing relationship. Earlier this month, he started being more reactive with scritches. I was standing and talking on the phone to a friend with him loose in the ring, scratching his neck and withers. He twisted his lips happily, and then swung his head around to wiggle them against my face. I burst out into delighted giggles, which clearly reinforced the behavior, because he’s continued to do it ever since. He’s adorable.
Under saddle, he and I had a fabulous ride Saturday the 19th. We took to the rail trail and boogied our way down to the quarry, which I haven’t seen in a year or two. I worked very hard at being 100% relaxed physically in the saddle and it definitely helped with his goofy spooking. Thankfully, it’s just annoying — he’s not a bolter, spinner, bucker, ect but when you’re cantering down the trail and your horse suddenly full body shudders away from something, it’s a little jarring! I have a decent enough seat that it’s never even halfway unseated me, and I usually just laugh, but I like my teeth not clacking together, thanks! Sirius was not ridden by himself often at J’s, so I don’t fault him for being a little “up” in a new place with new trails. He is awfully similar to Simba in that way…and in the way that rocks seem to be terrifying. He’s such a goober!
Sunday the 20th, I was really mean and I did this:
And you know what?
He was perfect. He didn’t bat an eye at ANY of it, including the very shiny, annoying tinsel. He even seemed to LIKE it. A coworker came out to run my camera while we cortoed around the ring, and he was happy to do so. He even preened a little when I turned him loose in the ring with said coworker to push him around for me so I could step behind the camera. He puffed up and strutted a little bit. Can I also mention that he lunged in perfect circle around my coworker at liberty? That was cool to see, and I repeated the feat the next day just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. I wish I had access to a round pen…liberty work with him would be a blast!
A few more friends came over to visit and I demoed Sirius’ gait for them. His gait, admittedly, takes a hit in the ring. It’s not his favorite place and he is not shy about expressing his displeasure. He’s never BAD, but he’s much stiffer and more likely to give me lip about commands, especially when it comes to slowing down or stopping. Stopping under saddle has been an ongoing battle. He’s is a hot, forward horse so when he’s asked to stop and he hits the bit, he feels claustrophobic and has a mild meltdown. Usually, it’s a half rear/spin thing. It is irritating but also somewhat amusing because he is 14.1 hands of childish temper tantrum and is easily corrected. However! Based on the past few weekends of working on this and it not being consistently better, I clearly need a better game plan. The stop itself has come leaps and bounds — I can ask for it and get it more often than not, but he is tense and unhappy about it. If he tries to go forward and I close my hands on the reins, he hits that bit and has his temper tantrum. I pull his nose to my foot and ask him to move his hindquarters over a couple time as a punishment, but it’s not really mitigating the issue.
So, after a particularly messy ride last Sunday, with rearing and temper tantrums and a complete inability to walk, I touched base with J. Now, I say that like we don’t talk anymore. That’s complete and total bullshit. We chat off and on during the week via Gchat at work and have nighttime conversations a few times a week after work. J’s been a wealth of knowledge when I ask for it, and has been really, really good about being hands off if I DON’T ask for it. Anyway, despite the fact I don’t actually feel like I’m in over my head yet, I did ask her for some input because I’m not one to shy away from outside perspectives. She had some good things to say…and it dawned on me that maybe the smart thing to do would be to take some real, live formal lessons from her. I’m certain she can really help us both here. I don’t need “intense” training, but I find I do much, much better when I have someone physically there to focus me. She knows me relatively well and has a good sense of where my limitations are, and knows the horse inside and out. I know she can help us patch up the few holes Sirius has that I’m not sure how to navigate the patching of, and then continue on to adding some fancier buttons, such as lateral movement, collection, and real balance at all gaits. I have very lofty goals overall, but for the next six months, I’d really like to work on just having a responsive, soft critter. The rest will follow! So, we’ll start that up weekly and, provided the weather keeps holding, do that through the winter.
I’m also doing my due diligence and having Chad the Vet come out on Tuesday. I rode past my coworker K’s house last weekend, and she pointed out that she could see sharp toothies from where she was standing, at least 5 feet away from him. So, Chad the Vet (who will be masquerading as Chad the Tooth Fairy) will be coming to check his mouth out. That could absolutely be contributing to his resistance all around. I’ve also been obsessively checking his back, and while I don’t have any reaction when I palpate his back (even with a bit of force…nothing!), I’ll continue watching that as he muscles up, especially in the spring.
In less analytical news…Sirius had made a new friend! Everyone, this is Ben.
Ben is a super cute, super sweet Gypsy Vanner gelding. He is A’s daughter’s gelding, and he had been away at “school” at a local boarding barn. Unfortunately, some troubling tummy issues have him back at home. He and Sirius have decided to be buddies — A has caught them rough housing and munching together since Ben got home. Sirius is such a social creature, and I’m really glad he has a friend — Lexi and Cherry, the Quarter horse and mini respectively, tolerated him but wouldn’t really engage him in play. Ben is already playing bitey face and is play boxing with him, and he’s loving it. Makes my little worried mama heart sing!
So, that’s the update! Now that we’re on the other side of holiday hell, I feel a little more mentally equipped to start looking forward to our modest goal for 2016: learn to communicate with each other. That’s all I want this year…well, and some fun rides tossed in for good measure!
Happy 2016, everyone!