This last weekend was as action packed as any horse-obsessed person could want. It had all the excitement of a lesson, baby horses, moving hay, and a horse show! I need an extra day off to recover from this madness.
Today’s topics – Lesson and hay.
I was half-heartedly looking at new trainers. I say half-heartedly because I really like my trainer, both in personality, character, and overall horse knowledge. But, something just seemed off. I was looking for something next level. I was wondering if I was to throw my all into lessons and training, how fast could I improve? Having a good trainer is essential to improvement, and I want one that really pushes me and takes me to the next level.
I happened to see an ad for a trainer just outside of Middleburg, and I did some research. He had a student compete in the Upperville Internation Hunter Derby, and that is literally exactly the level I want to get to. I want to do hunter derbies, and handy hunter, and perhaps International Hunter Derby is a bit far-fetched and expensive to contemplate, but seriously, shoot for the maximum possible. TO THE EXTREME! Why just settle for, “eh, maybe something fun?” Why do I have a job, a farm, several horses, putting my blood sweat and tears into horses if I’m not shooting for the best I can be?
I jazzed myself up just writing that. Kind of makes me feel absurd for when I recap my TEENY TINY jumper show in a few days, but gotta start somewhere!
So, back to the trainer – He was offering a free day of lessons so people could try him out. That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard, and I was very interested. Risk free* trial!
*Did end up with physical ailment, but wouldn’t say that was anyone’s fault.
It was for trailer-ins only, but luckily that’s all I do anyway, so that was fine. I also figured, I have a pony, D’Arcy is a person, she can take a free lesson, too. So we both met there early Saturday morning, full of anticipation for our free lesson.
The farm is gorgeous! It has all the charm of the style of Middleburg farms, and it’s a huge plot of land, perfect for conditioning. They have a big outdoor, and a graded grass Grand Prix field. Unfortunately no indoor, but they do have an agreement to use someone else’s indoor, so that’s almost the same thing to me (actually, literally the same thing, trailering to one place is as easy as trailering to another.)
I pulled up to a nice easy turnaround for trailers (the little things are important to me!) and noticed a pretty little appaloosa in the barn. Everyone who appreciates the wonders of appaloosas is good in my book, so that was a definitely plus.
We met with the trainer, talked for a bit, and then headed up to the ring. He made us do lots of flatwork, and made me concentrate on getting Berry to use her hindquarters. Berry is built downhill so she doesn’t like to use herself naturally, it’s definitely a struggle. He used analogies that made sense to me (Your horse is like an accordion, and right now, she’s at full extension. You push the ends together more) and I found that this kind of visualization really works for me.
We did flatwork for half the lesson, which I appreciate. Flat work is the basis of everything, after all. Then, we began the jumping.
He emphasized pace and footfalls over counting strides. He told us not to count strides, and to instead feel the rhythm of the canter, and let the horse figure out the distance. No searching for distances for us! This suits me perfectly, because I have never counted strides, and just “ride out of hand” so to speak. And I don’t mean that in a classy, top end rider way, I mean that in a I’m too distacted and forget to count way. I have made half-hearted attempts to count my strides, but I guess in the end, I don’t really care enough. I guess I see a distance, and I know when to hold back and ask for another stride at this point, but I basically just go with the flow. So, this is quite interesting to me.
We did a few simple verticals, and then he had me jump one of the verticals from the opposite direction. This of course greatly upset Berry because there was a coop laying in the grass outside the ring, and she could see it from that angle. She refused the jump! I can’t remember the last time she refused. I was pretty shocked, but I turned around and did it again. Another refusal! He ended up dropping the top rail, which was fine with me, because I want a trainer that’s not afraid to take a step back and make sure everything is great at a lower level before raising it.
He added in a 2’9″ panel oxer. This would have been the biggest jump Berry and I have jumped. We’ve done 2’9″ verticals, but never an oxer, and never a panel, and it looked HUGE. So yeah, would have been. She refused that. She did it in a new way too… when she usually refuses, I can feel it before the jump. She gets squirrelly, and I know she’s not feeling confident. With this one, she made it all the way to the base, solid distance, and then realized she didn’t feel confident and slammed on the breaks. I guess my legs must be getting stronger because I didn’t come off, I just slid forward and took the entire impact in my chin.
This has never happened to me, and immediately aftward, I wondered why riders don’t have helmets that protect their chins. It hurt so bad, I thought I broke my jaw, and I was sure I got a concussion. I was in a daze for a few moments while I felt my jaw line, but the pain faded pretty quickly, and I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of two people, so it was time to go at it again. (My jaw now has moments where it hurts, and other times when it feels fine. I think it might have dislocated, but I pushed it around a bit and my teeth mostly line up now. It’ll probably be fine!)
Trainer dropped the back rail of the oxer, and I went at it again. One small thing I am proud of is that I have finally learned to not hold a grudge against things like this. I think a year or two ago I would have been scared to do the jump again. But now I’m either numb to it, or I’m managing to control my mind enough not to let it be an issue. I went at the now just a panel, and it was great. No issues, no hesitation at all. It really felt like a lovely jump.
The trainer kept adding more pieces until it ended up as a tiny course of jumps. I focused on my pace, and he noticed that I softened way too much right before the jump, and I need to stop doing that. I think it was really productive, and it felt like such a good ride.
Pony was a good boy as well. It seemed like he and D’Arcy were having a good ride, and she jumped him as well. Towards the end, he started getting tired, and he reverted to “little kid pony mode.” He was literally acting like a stubborn little pony deciding he’d had enough of his small child rider, and he could just ignore her. Unfortunately for him, D’Arcy is a full sized adult, so she spanked his behind. This made him quite indignant, which is something I haven’t seen before.
She was asking for him to go down the line one more time, and he was refusing to walk another step. She whapped him with the crop, and his little temper flared, and apparently decided the best thing to do was hand gallop down the line, flicking his tail in indignation the entire time.
Since he is just a pony, the effect was comical instead of intimidating. It was essentially what D’Arcy wanted, so perfectly fine. He was allowed to end after that, being a perfect little pony.
We cleaned up the horses, and with promises of another lesson once the two big shows in my area are over, we headed out.
We went to visit baby horses after that, but when we returned, I had 6 round bales in my front yard that needed to be moved to the barn.
The delivered hay had been dropped in my front yard due to the uneven hill that goes down to my barn. It just wouldn’t be safe for a giant flatbed to make it’s way down there. That meant we had to push the hay down the hill manually. It sounded way easier than it was.
First, we used the tractor to push the bales. This resulted in the binding of the bales ripping, and we ended up with a lovely snail trail all the way down the hills.
This happened with two of the bales. One exploded near the top of the hill, and the other exploded right by the barn. But to stay positive, four bales did survive the entire journey! Hurray!
It took an hour and a half to move these six bales, and all of us were sweaty and covered with hay, and scratches from hay. But at least… my horses have hay for the next six months…? Hurray….?….!
We took the mismatched bays out to a local hunter show, and overall, it went great! It was such a fun day, I can’t wait to do it again.
D’Arcy rode little bay Pony Man. She was initially going to take him in the green pony division, but apparently green ponies is only for children, so I feel like “Green Pony division” is very misleading. Maybe it should be “Children’s Green Pony Division”, that would make it clear who it was intended for. But luckily she called to clarify, and it was determined that “Maiden Hunter” division was more appropriate for the little guy. This meant we got to show up later in the morning, so that was a plus. No waking up at 5am to prep.
I was going to do the 2’6″ Green division. This turned into doing the 2’6″ Thoroughbred division, because of the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, which I didn’t really care about before, but now I kind of want to collect all the points. But more on that later – my division wasn’t until after 2pm, so again, nice and lazy approach to getting to the horse show.
We arrived about 11:30 and discovered that the show was actually moving along quite quickly, and it was almost time for D’Arcy to ride. This is the first time this has ever happened at a hunter show for me. There was no sitting around for hours waiting for my class! (This is probably one of those things that only happens once in a lifetime – I will never again experience the joy of a show moving along quickly.)
We actually had to hurry up to get ready (no hurry up and wait, literally just hurry). We quickly dressed, D’Arcy, usually the jumper, going for a “Jackie-O” style hunter look, with a green wool coat, and I looking more like a jumper rider with the tight tech jacket and a rhinestone helmet. It seems this particular show attracted other casually dressed riders, as later we stood by the ring and judged the several others who were wearing black breeches, navy blue jean style breeches, and sweaters. How dare you all befoul that which is the formality of hunters.
I KID, I KID
We were joined by super amazing Shelby, who is the source of all the photos with her super amazing photography skills.
We started our warm-up, which was basically as long as we wanted since D’Arcy was the next class to go, and one of two people in the class. We had a nice long warm-up in the competition ring, and were feeling pretty good. Pony had never done a course before, and after every jump, he would start breaking, thinking that was the end of the exercise. D’Arcy’s main goal was to keep him cantering.
We had joked with the show organizer that it was Pony’s first show when we signed up, and from then on, she announced it each time she announced Pony and D’Arcy.
“And now in the ring, D’Arcy, on Naponyman, who is doing his very first course!”
“Champion is Naponyman, who is debuting at his very first show!”
Moments later, it was time for me to warm up for the 2’6″ division. All the jumps were raised, and in I went. My goal was just to jump each jump one time, as I’d already jumped them all during the earlier warmup, I just wanted to make sure she realized that the jumps were higher now.
D’Arcy gave me pointers on the approach, and I was practicing the diagonal line. The line went really well, but when I landed on the second jump, Berry got very upset, and gave an actual buck. She’s never actually bucked before, and I popped up in the air. It felt very high, and upon finding empty space where my horse used to be, I realized I was coming off. I went right over her shoulder, and saw the mess of her legs, but luckily she swerved and avoided me. I landed right on the best possible spot – my fleshy behind. It’s a built-in landing pad. I was up instantly, and for a moment it seemed like no one had even noticed I had come off. But then I saw D’Arcy coming over, and people started moving to block the loose horse.
I haven’t fallen off in years, and I’ve never fallen off Berry, so that in itself was kind of a shock. I’ve had jumping fears for many years, basically up until I started doing hunters, so I was trying to reassure myself not to get worked up about this, and everything is fine. My behind also hurt a bit, but I just ignored that, and it went away as soon as I started riding again. I got back on quickly, and took a few minutes to compose myself. D’Arcy and Shelby were super supportive and really made me feel better. Thank you, Turk and Red <3. Then it was back to the line, time to get it together.
I’m not entirely sure why Berry bucked to began with, so it was a little hard to diagnose. Our little team agreed that the line itself went great, but something on the landing pissed her off. The best I had figure is that it was because she landed on the wrong lead. Berry gets really upset when she’s on the wrong lead, which definitely puts me at a disadvantage when I can’t do flying lead changes. I decided the strategy was going to be – if she lands on the wrong lead, collect, compress, and do a nice counter canter.
After doing the line a bunch of times, it was time to move out and prepare for the actual course. Because there were actually a whole bunch of people in my class, it was time for the waiting. It was actually only like 10 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. I was tempted to scratch, but I was told that was unacceptable, and I was going to do it.
Eventually it was my turn, and in I went. With the exception of no flying lead changes, both rounds went well. There were a few long spots, I held the wrong lead through the turns, and did a few simples changes at times, but overall, it was pretty good!
It supposed to be fun…and it was fun. I love jumping! No need to panic, just relax, and have a good time.
I did have boot issues again. I was nearly done with my course when my foot went numb, kind of like this. Luckily it was only one foot, and not both, but it was quite annoying. I was using borrowed boots because I didn’t want to wear the tall boots that caused my feet to go numb last time, and I don’t own black paddock boots to go with my half chaps, but apparently, I need to just pony up and get some boots that fit me.
After my rounds, we celebrated with mimosas and/or beers. I decided to just scratch my next class, but we just hung out by the ring and watched the other riders go while grazing the horses. It was very fun, and Pony entertained us by watching all the horses go by with a fasinated expression. He tried to flirt with a few of them who were particularly booty-ful.
After having 3 or 4 mimosas, they called for my flat class. We’d been standing there so long, I thought it had already gone, but in a fit of tipsy energy, I decided to mount back on and go in. It was very relaxed and easy, exactly how I felt. But Berry got one of her leads wrong, and I’m pretty sure that’s why we didn’t place higher. But I did discover something very important: have a mimosa before any class, and they will all be easy and relaxed. Clearly, that is the lesson to be learned.
They did the placings, and I got 2nd in one of the over fences class, which is definitely an all time high for any over fences class I’ve had. Hurray for success at 2’6″ before winning at 2’3″! I knew there was a good reason to move up!
Now to just get those pesky lead changes… I suppose I’ll have to buckle down and actually work on them.
Pony, being a full grown 5 year old pony, needs to get out and see the world. I can show him the world…. you know, if I feel like. But in this case, D’Arcy will show him the world. She started by riding him last weekend.
So, to give you a brief recap of the life of Pony, I bought him as a yearling, he spent 4 months at training last year, and he’s been ridden probably 5 times since. That brings you up to speed.
He’s a really, really good pony. Once something clicks, he remembers, and he keeps right on doing it. He grasps the concepts of things really fast. He’s main problem is that he is terrified of everything. So, lesson learned – expose your baby horse to as much as possible. OK WORLD, I GET IT, I’LL TAKE THE NEXT ONE OUT. He’s the youngest I’ve ever owned, although I did get Berry as a 2-year old, and took her out and about, but that was less purposeful exposure, and more of “I am actively training this horse because I would like to ride this horse ASAP”. And now she’s a moderately brave horse. But I digress.
We (we should basically mean D’Arcy, we weren’t both riding him) took him around the arena and introduced him to such scary concepts as a white pole on the ground, and a barrel. The pole caused him some distress, but he really got over everything very quickly. We have ambitions of showing the little guy, so we decided to take him through a grid. I failed to elaborate on Pony never having done a grid, and in fact, probably only jumped like 10 times in his life, and D’Arcy headed for the grid.
He was a bit scared, and reacted like a scared little pony. Poor guy. But, little guy doesn’t hold a grudge, so the next time was much better.
He’s getting it! Another round, and he was at this:
Feel free to ignore my obnoxious cooing. He did trip over the first one, but what a good Pony!! The last jump was a gate, and he didn’t even hesitate. He got it, he knows what he’s doing now.
He did trip over the first one, but what a good Pony!! The last jump was a gate, and he didn’t even hesitate. He got it, he knows what he’s doing now.
After his great performance, we only asked one more thing of him: Jump this panel gate that he hadn’t looked at before.
My little boy is all grown up! He gets it… he really gets it!
And of course, I must give credit to D’Arcy for riding him through all this. She handled him beautifully, and really helped him understand. She might have a second career as a pony rider. Those are in high demand!
Afterward, we went out on a trail ride, and he was moderately good for that, too. Berry and I did leave him and D’Arcy behind at a terrifying looking mud stream that he was reluctant to cross, but eventually he popped over it. Little guy just needs more exposure, and he’s going to be the greatest (and only) Pony that I’ve ever owned.
Now the thrilling conclusion of the TTouch Blog Mini Series. I only have three equines, so I can only do so much with this topic.
Today’s contestant: Pony Man, a 5-year-old, medium sized pony with a heart filled with arrogance, and cowardliness, in equal measures. He enjoys galloping up to greet people, or hiding behind trees, sobbing his little heart out, depending on how he’s feeling.
He has an adorable little dished face. He’s just so perfect…like a little china doll…
TTouch says: A tendency to be sensitive and sometimes timid. Yes, this is true about him. He’s very shy around new people, and won’t come up to them. He remembers if you did something to him (like fly sprayed) and he’ll hold it against you for at least a week, and not want to come near you.
Medium sized jowls.
TTouch says: Average ability to learn. I guess so… pretty vague.
He has the adorably named “Teacup muzzle”. Awwww, more proof in my mind that he is so adorable and tiny.
TTouch says: This British Definition came about because the muzzle appeared to be small enough to fit into a teacup. Reflects intelligence and sensitvity. He’s definitely sensitive! I think he’s pretty intelligent too. He figures things out fast. He really would be so perfect if he was a full sized horse…but then he wouldn’t be all tiny and cute, so I’m undecided which is better.
He has a very short mouth! I’m actually surprised I never noticed before.
TTouch says: This can signal inflexibility and a horse who is slow to learn. It’s hard to fit such horses with a comfortable bit, and generally they do better without one, i.e., hackamore. That’s interesting because he is pretty fussy with his bit. I assumed he was still getting used to the idea of it. I’ll have to keep an eye on this… And I don’t think he is slow to learn, but he is kind of inflexible… like literally inflexible, it’s hard to supple him up.
He has what the book describes as a “mobile upper lip. It’s always moving around, he’s very expressive with it.
TTouchsays: Curiosity and the physical need to have contact with humans, mouthing them for example. I’m a little taken back from that, because that is him. He follows me around the field, begging me to scratch him and play with him. He loves to have mutual grooming sessions, although he won’t groom me, he’ll groom the air near me, or a nearby horse if there’s one close enough.
Looking through a series of photos of Pony has made me decide that he has “Large, open, and moveable nostrils.”
TTouch says: A sign of a nature that is intelligent, interested, and eagerly active. That is him. He’s very interested in everything around him, even if he’s too shy to check out some of the scary things.
He has a round, soft chin.
TTouch says: Signals a nature that can be easy going and uncomplicated. Yes, he is easy to ride, he’s never bucked, or done anything nasty, either under saddle or in general, and he’s willing. He’s just really shy and sensitive, which means he needs convincing sometimes.
This one was easy. Pony has massive eyes for his little pony self.
TTouch says: Generally indicates a horse who is willing and usually trusts people. He is willing, and he seems to trust/like me. But he’s really shy around people he doesn’t know. So I’m not sure if this is accurate or not.
There are two characteristics I can get from his ears. In addition to the shape, “fine, fluted ears,” he has adorable tufts in his ears.
TTouch says: Usually signifies intelligence. He’s a smart little guy, no question about that.
TTouch says: Often indicates willfulness and inflexibility. He is literally inflexible like we covered earlier. But this directly contradicts earlier statements that he is willing. I would say he’s definitely more willing than not.
He has one swirl, looks like it’s smack dab in the center.
TTouch says: This pattern and position is the standard one displayed by the majority of the horses in our studies and in my observations. It indicates a horse with a generally uncomplicated nature, but there are variations. Sometimes swirls are set a little to one side of the other.
With swirls set to the left as you face the animal, the horse will tend to be a touch more complicated but still trustworthy. Horses who have a swirl set a bit to the right of center may be less cooperative than those with the pattern in the center or to the left.
In general swirls of this sort are less indicate of character than the more complex patterns.
I don’t really have a comment on that one, as it seems to be just vague and general, and doesn’t indicate a whole lot.
After running these three tests, I would say I’m kind of a believer. Maybe like, 65% of a believer. Some of them were dead on, and some seemed really off. A lot of them confirmed what I already knew from knowing my horses for years already.
I could see that this could be useful if you were selecting a new horse. If you had already memorized all the different traits and knew what traits to avoid, theoretically, when you evaluated a prospect, you could decide if they had a personality you would get along with. Since I already know some of the traits, I would be evaluating a potential horse that way, but it’s hard not to get fixated on one specific trait that would be undesirable, and then discount the entire horse. My own horses had a few traits that were undesirable, but I still like their overall personalities.
Overall, a very interesting look at my horses, and I recommend the book if you want to evaluate your own horse. The book goes into further details on evaluating, even taking into account the entire conformation of the horse, and who it could help or hinder their intended job. Technically, I could have gone further with these posts and evaluated everyone’s conformation, but they seemed long enough as it was.
Pony is a coward. The times he’s gone off the property he has been fearful, and scared. When he was out at training, his trainer would purposely take him for walks around the barn, where he would spook at the same things he saw everyday in his daily life, the sawdust pile, the hay bales, the dog, definitely that goat.
The only solution to this is to get him out and about. It’s time for him to get out on the trails.
I asked Olivia if she wanted to do some trail riding, and she wasn’t opposed. We set out for James Long Park, where we actually met for the first time just over a year ago (our anniversary ride?!)! Except this time, poor Vintage was left behind, pumped full of tranquilizer to keep her from trying anything crazy, and we took Berry and Pony.
Even though it was the holiday weekend, we surprisingly had the park almost completely to ourselves. We set up some jumps (or more accurately, Olivia did the hard thinking of positioning, striding, and actually setting up the jump, and I just brought some jump stuff over), and hopped right on.
I really thought Pony would be super spooky, mental breakdown horrible. But he just looked, carefully avoided getting too close to anything the first trip around the arena, and bizarrely, was afraid of a man walking down the street. But I set him to work, and he quickly forgot about much of anything, except probably how horrible I was for making him move his tiny little legs.
Meanwhile, Olivia did some stuff with Berry, and it’s always a joy to see her ride, as she’s just so dang good.
For anyone curious, Berry keeps ripping her tail out on her water buckets. It’s gotten worse since these pictures! :'(
Pony watched all this with great interest.
Once the humidity got to us, we decided to head on out on the trails. To my surprise, Pony actually moved up to take the lead. He bravely went into the woods, but he was stumped at a ditch. Ditches are terrifying eaters of ponies, and he knows this. I ended up getting off, and pulling/pushing him until he finally made a leap over the ditch. But then Berry decided ditches eat horses, and didn’t want to go over it. We decided not to make a big deal of the ditch, so Pony and I went back over the ditch, although I just stepped over it, while he took another huge flying leap. Then, I conveniently got right back on him from the ground, because he’s so tiny and it’s super easy. No more looking around for logs and fences for me!
We headed back onto the trail with Pony leading again. Although, this basically meant that Pony’s short strides made Olivia have to stop every few steps to avoid running him over. When we came to another ditch that Pony didn’t want to cross, Olivia and Berry made their move and scooted right around him to take over the lead. They continued on, with no more stop-and-go traffic. And Pony started to drift way behind.
While Pony was super brave when he was leader, he was happy to now follow behind Berry on the journey. He looked around, but didn’t spook at a single thing, or hesitate about anything. He plugged along, happy with this new adventure.
We did have to continually trot to catch up.
Only to almost immediately fall back behind. At least once, Pony found a particularly interesting leaf or tree he wanted to examine, and Olivia had to stop and wait.
Eventually, we made it all through the trails, and back to the trailer. We did it, Pony survived, and he was so happy and calm about the entire experience. Although he was definitely tired, poor little guy.
And, obviously, I cooed over how adorable my sweet little angel is.
And just to make sure there were no hard feelings, we visited with Vintage when we got back.
I am so thrilled with how good Pony was. Underneath that scared Pony exterior lies a confident, brave Pony, ready to take on the world. He just needs to get out and see that world.
Berry’s birthday was yesterday. She is now 7 years old.
Pony was a bit disgruntled, possibly because I completely forgot about his birthday. His birthday was exactly one week ago. He just turned 5. Sorry Pony. I’ll do something for you at a later time.
Not that he would appreciate it, of course. It was surprisingly difficult to get these horses laid. Vintage was honking and was very upset at the thought of it going over her head. She also found Berry’s new horn slightly terrifying.
Pony was being such a snot, he was actually rearing up trying to get away from me. I will give him credit for rearing up, and turning from me, and not punching me with his tiny hooves like my other former horse. But still, he forgets that he’s a tiny pony, and I can knock him over. Also, I found it quite rude. It’s an essential part of horse training for them to tolerate getting a lei put on them. I’m pretty sure I heard that from one of those big name trainers. You know, the one that’s really big and trains horses.
He was also very confused by Berry’s hat.
In fact, it seemed like the only one very pleased with her hat was, of course, Berry herself.
And then afterward, Berry was sad it was over. Or possibly she was sad it even took place.
And then Vintage got the lei stuck on her head, and I laughed once more. She was pretty upset, but she seemed to handle it well.
I feel like I must be a terrible owner, because all I do is laugh at my horses in peril. Oh well…
Pony Man is back from training. He was gone for a bit over 90 days, and it flew by. He left as a boy, and has returned a man. Now, he is ready to do great things.
He had quite the adventure at his trainer’s barn, and he did get to spend a little bit of time saying goodbye to the other horses. Particularly this one, and apparently they have a mutual dislike of each other.
His trainer told me about one of his quirks – he’s a squealer. Apparently, he squeals like a little piggy a lot. If another horse gets close while he’s being ridden, he squeals. If the trainer is sitting on him teaching, and someone jumps near him, he squeals. Basically anything happens, he squeals.
Even though the pictures are out of order, we actually rode him before the bath and goodbyes. It was bittersweet. Imagine some sad love song while you look at the following:
Speaking of ghosts, we went for a hike around her huge property afterward, and checked out her abandoned shack. But, it turns out it was not so abandoned, and other than being spotlessly clean, had this creepiness inside of it.
It had a super creepy vibe to it, although really, we think it’s being used by the neighbor’s as their kid’s playhouse. But moving along from that, it was time to head on home.
The mares were very interested in Pony when he got back. Vintage even started nickering at him when he got there, which was super cute. But when I got him in his paddock and released the mares, Vintage still decided she had to put him in his place. She gave him lots of mare glares, and wouldn’t even let Berry get near him for a while.
Eventually Berry did get to him, and being his former best friend, I think they were pretty happy to see each other. They spent a few moments nuzzling each other over the fence, until Vintage decided she had seen enough and ran them both off.
After giving him a day to settle in, it was time for the test. I had to ride him alone, without his trainer there to support me. I was nervous, especially as I expected him to be very spooky. He’s still a very cowardly pony.
I got on him, and he just stood there, like a good little pony. I started walking around, and he was a bit up, but surprisingly, didn’t spook at anything, including the flapping geotextile that I still haven’t cut off from when I built the arena. No magical fog appeared though.
Even with the change of bit (as though I’m going to go buy a whole new bit! ha!), he was still a good little pony. His back is a bit slippery, and it’s easy to lose my balance, but he’s really quiet and obedient. He tries really hard.
Riding him is like spending time on the stairmaster. It requires so much dang leg!! At least this will make my leg super secure. And it will improve my balance, as I have to stay quiet on him, or I knock him over.
So far, so good. We’ve been walk/trot/canter, trotted a little crossrail, and started circles and figure 8s. He obviously already knew the w/t/c and jumps, not sure about the circle work. Since my arena is so small, I’m forced into lots and lots of circle work. With him being so little, and not used to me, I don’t want him to be making turns so sharp that he’ll lose his balance. So just starting gradually.
Overall, pretty neat to have my pony back and ridable!
Pony Man was standing quietly at the edge of his stall. He liked to put his hooves on the threshold and stick his head as far over as it could go to watch the aisle. Luckily that obnoxious goat was nowhere nearby, so there were no distractions as he contemplated life.
He vaguely remembered a time when he was young and naive, and lived a wild, carefree life. But now, after his extensive education, he was a sophisticated young pony ready to take on the world. If only his old mares could see him now, they’d regret being so mean to him! He was a worldly, big city pony now, at his barn with 30+ other horses. He didn’t even get bitten through the stall window anymore, he had a completely private stall!
As he smugly considered his new life, someone showed up at his stall. She looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place her right away. She came right into his stall, and began itching his shoulders. He was distracted by the itching, but there was something about this woman that made him wonder… why was she here?
She put on his halter and walked him down to the grooming stalls. His mind started to race. She wasn’t his trainer! What on earth was she doing? His mind raced as flashes of memory came back to him. The untoned legs. The lounging. His old mares! She was from the old farm!
He immediately put on his dignified face. She might tell the old mares what he was doing, he needed to be on his most sophisticated behavior. He stood alertly in the crossties, watching as they attempted to scrub off his thick winter coat. Those mares were going to be so jealous when they heard about his classy manners, and how primly he stood, his front hooves neatly together.
They brought him down to the ring where another horse was being ridden. Luckily he was now a well versed socialite, and could easily hold a conversation with the giant, dignified animal. Hopefully that would also get back to the mares.
His trainer put him through his paces, every now and then yelling out things to the other woman. He tried not to concern himself with such things.
Then she declared he would be jumped. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of this jumping business. On one hand, it was kind of interesting, but on the other hand, it required effort, something he didn’t really like doing. But when he didn’t put in effort, he was swatted with a stick, something he found rather annoying. Since he really wanted those mares to be impressed, he put his best pony face forward.
It was the first time he went over the so-called “vertical”. It was okay, but it required more effort than the little x’s, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that yet. There were a lot of confusing feelings in his adolescent pony mind.
Ever since that other woman had showed up, he had a sinking feeling he knew what was to come. Sure enough, after being ridden around a bit by his trainer, she did do the most horrible thing. She climbed up on him. Then she had the nerve to say things like, “He’s so narrow!”, and “It’s like riding a balance beam!” Such insulting terms offended his sophisticated sensibilities. He puffed up, but did absolutely nothing because that would have required energy. He instead stood quietly, hoping the woman would be so unbalanced she’d just tumble right off, even while halted.
They stood for a few minutes because the giant beast of a horse was doing a course. He pitied the poor animal, forced to jump at the human’s bidding. He was way to dignified to go around in such a manner.
No sooner were the thoughts formed, the woman forced him to start walking around. He wobbled a bit, hoping she’d lose her balance and fall, but she clung on with those monster legs. She even carried around that annoying stick, and gave him a tap when he wouldn’t go forward.
When she didn’t fall off, he patiently carried her around, deciding it would be better for the mares to hear about him being an amazing pony. He even stopped abruptly for her when she’d lose her balance, or failed to keep constant leg pressure. He was a gracious, accommodating pony, and all should hear about it.
After a few trips around the arena, the woman declared that her legs hurt from clinging to his backside. He snorted derisively before he remembered he was now a cultured gentlepony, and therefore must not laugh at the weaker species.
He was pleased when she dismounted and it was all over. Now he could go back to his stall and brood about the mysteries of life, as befitting of a sophisticated young pony. He was less pleased when his trainer and the woman started discussing her coming back another time. Wasn’t one time enough!?
He listened in as they untacked him. He was to be in training for one more week. Then he would be returning to his old farm. He’d been living the big city life for so long, he hardly remembered the old farm, except for how mean those mares had been. Would they appreciate his new classy demeanor? He wasn’t ready to go back and face his old bullies. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right!
He had one week to mentally prepare himself. He could do this. He might need some flashy new clothes, and a pretend backstory, but he was going to blow those mares away at their reunion. They’d rue the day they were mean to him, and now they’d finally be his loyal band of mares, accepting him as their gracious stallion!