We got to the barn early today and had the place to ourselves. Laredo came all the way out from behind the windblock and sloshed through the muck to get to me. He is, in fact, the best of our three horses about coming to us, I guess because we started working on that with him from day one and have never stopped.
Steen usually comes to me, but he seems to do it most consistently on the days I am going to be riding Laredo. *sigh* It always makes me feel a bit bad to have to tell him he can’t come.
During grooming, Laredo seemed different about his head. He never tensed up when I was working on that side of his neck or head with the brushes, which is a first. He had some hair around his problem ear that had gotten wet and dried out, so it was kind of matted and crunchy. I got a jelly curry and intended to work on being able to get to that area to see if I could help with it at all. He surprised me. Instead of stiffening up and leaning away, he leaned into the curry when I began rubbing around the base of the ear. I rubbed and rubbed and his head drooped lower and he let out a huge sigh. I went all around the ear and even rubbed the ear itself. No negative reaction at all.
When I bridled him, I did it without sneaking past the ear. When I touched the off ear the firs time, he did not move his feet but his head came up. I did the same thing as last time and got contact on the ear and left my hand there until he relaxed. Then I let go, gave him a break, and tried again. I was able to guide the ear forward and through the bosal hanger without any more fuss.
So that was huge. He’s also starting to “get” a number of the things that have made him feel behind Steen and Bear as far as overall ground manners are concerned. He has stopped trying to chew on his lead rope when tied, and seems to finally understand that standing tied means not moving any feet at all, ever. So we’ve recently graduated him to bouts of what we call “neck tying,” which is just our variation on ground tying. We toss the lead rope over his neck and his job is to stay put no matter what happens. Our last two times out he’s achieved complete immobility even when he knows we are off rooting around in the treat bin to bring him a post-ride snack. These are all excellent milestones that are making it more relaxing to be around him in general. And I’m sure it helps his overall mindset that we’re having to correct him less leading up to the work we do under saddle.
Our ride was ok. It was good, I suppose, but it wasn’t quite on par with our last one. He started out almost over-energized and we kept kind of bouncing between him putting a bit too much energy into things and not quite enough. I worked on varying pace and speed and tasks a lot. I have been trying to be very mindful of what I’m asking for with Laredo. So I will sit on him and decide on the exact exercise I am going to do, with an exact goal in mind. Then I will ask him to move and we’ll work on that one thing until we’ve achieved a positive change. Then we stop and sit again while I come up with the next thing. This seems to keep his overall interest level higher. He seems to get the frustrated when he can’t see the point of what we’re doing.
Although the ride in general felt just ok, we did have a couple of stellar moments. The best one was we did the routine with Brian and Bear and threw in loping on the straightaways. We have never tried this with Laredo before. It makes the routine considerably more challenging for both horse and rider. I wasn’t sure if Laredo and I could manage it. But he surprised me. We got both into and out of the lope both times close enough to when we were supposed to that we kept synchronized with Bear and Brian. It was so good the first time we did it we decided to let that be the end of the ride.
So, I’m trying to stay focused on the positive with him. As the basics start solidifying, I think my major challenge is going to be to stay aware of his youth and inexperience and not expect too much of him too fast, yet at the same time continue to make sure we challenge him enough to keep him making progress.
In other news, I have ridden more in March so far than any other month this year. I’m still not exactly racking up the saddle hours at the rate I would like to, but it’s an improvement.
Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback Hours YTD: 19:05