I really should be cleaning my house right now. Offspring and Darling Husband aren’t super great at picking up after themselves, but I would rather do just about any thing than clean. Work was crazy last week. I actually spent three days in New York City, and didn’t have much time or really anything to write about. I had contemplated heading to Central Park for a carriage ride, and maybe write a post about that. I’ve done the whole carriage ride in Central Park before, and even though this trip I had about a hundred questions about the horses, their harness, and the carriages, by the time I had finished with meetings, I mentally couldn’t process being around humans for at least twelve hours. So, while I wait for it to warm up outside, writing about my favorite thing is the next best thing to doing it.
If you have ever trained a horse, you know progress is never linear. It’s a winding road up and down a mountainside with hundreds of switchbacks. Sometimes you get lucky. You have a horse with a solid mind that reduces the time you spend doing U turns in training. Other times you work with an animal that once it appears to have made progress will revert to worse behavior than when you first began training. I mean these horses can literally take their level of training to a negative number on the training scale.
The roller coaster of emotions that an equestrian experiences in just a single ride can border on psychosis. One moment you’ve won the lottery, the next moment David Allen Coe could be writing a song about you. Thirty seconds later you achieve something you’ve been working all year to accomplish. It’s a never ending, highly addictive cycle. Addiction is the only reason I can think of to explain the amount of time and energy I devote to the process.
I’m the lucky owner of both types of horses and everything in between. (We currently have 9 after all.) Odessa is my solid horse. Sidelined for two months while her sarcoid surgery incision healed, she came back better than before. She’s out of shape, still has her pleasant mare-ish attitude about anything resembling work, but despite the fact she would rather be grazing in the pasture than practicing maneuvers, she was responding as well as she did at her last show.
Comanche is my struggle. For every training success, there are two epic failures, that force us to go straight back to the basics. I swear the gelding has zero short term memory, maybe he lost that when he lost his balls. He literally forgets everything he accomplishes by the very next day. I sometimes wonder if one of his pasture mates kicked him in the head at night causing amnesia that takes him back to a place before he joined our farm. His curiosity and willing attitude make it worth putting up with these eccentricities.
At this point I just allow a month of training time for every small thing I attempt to teach Comanche. If he doesn’t repeat the newest skill he learned for at least two weeks with no fireworks, we might as well go back to the beginning and start over. Pushing Comanche to learn and perform faster than that results in a strung out animal that grabs the bit and charges around with no brakes or jigs around like a racking horse.
So Saturday was awesome! With Odessa’s incision finally healed, I was finally able to get a saddle on her, and work her a little harder than I usually work her bareback. She gave me some quality gaits, and performed some trail maneuvers flawlessly. Odessa even picked her feet up going over poles and cavaletties which she’s usually too lazy to care about. Odessa needs incentive to pick up her feet. If the obstacle doesn’t hurt when she taps it, then she’s perfectly happy to whack poles. PVC pipe isn’t exactly threatening on the ground so she just kicks it out of her way rather than stepping over.
Moving onto Comanche, we’re on day three of executing a flying lead change without turning into a psycho giraffe. He’s finally accepting contact on the bit, and he’s softening. Canter to trot and walk transitions are still choppy, but he did jump consistently tonight. Instead of bearing down on the bit and charging the fences like he’s going into battle, Comanche actually let me find the distance and place him in front of the jump.
The highlight of evening goes to my precious little pony Apple Jack though. She’s only been hitched to the cart twice, but she’s been so calm about the process, I decided to go ahead and take a spin in the cart. She was a perfect little angel, which is saying a lot since she’s a pony (aka minion of hell). We walked for about twenty minutes. I’m practicing patience. Usually five uneventful minutes is the point when I ask for more. After twenty minutes I asked her for a trot, and she gave me a nice consistent working trot.
I wish Comanche would respond this well. AppleJack’s only been in training for two months. I’ve been working with Comanche for two years, but that’s the differences in equine personalities for you. It’s also the difference in starting your animal the correct way versus cleaning up the mess someone else created. In my experience crappy horsemanship tends to create stronger equine memories than, soft consistent handling.
So it was a great night on the farm, and hopefully today will be awesome as well. The big horses are getting a day off, because I have three ponies to work today. Since Odessa is back better than ever, hopefully Jasper will be taking some after school rides this week weather permitting!