I have to admit, one of the cons (in my mind) of bringing Presto home is that I wasn’t sure I’d have much time to do anything with him. Sometimes doing stuff with babies on the ground can turn into a big time and attention suck, and I was worried it might take some of my focus off of Henry.
Turns out though that I have a greater capacity for focus than I thought, because now I’m just super obsessed with both of them. I absolutely love working with Presto every day, even if it’s something as simple as a quick grooming session. I think part of it is that every day I can see how much more educated he’s getting, how much more he’s bonding with me, and how much more self-confidence he’s gaining. At this age, and with these types of tasks, it’s a pretty slow but steady increase. That’s always fun. He also seems to really thrive off of having something to do, and having expectations to meet.
I don’t find his baby moments to be frustrating or annoying, I see them as teaching opportunities. If we can iron that stuff out now, all the better. And every time he has a baby moment, and I correct him and show him what I want, he grows a little bit more mentally. He clearly sees me as his leader now, and he seems pretty content in my company. Also adorable that he keeps coming up to me when I go to get him every day. Not gonna lie, it’s cute. Especially because I know that at some point the Arrogant Phase will come upon us and he will start testing his boundaries more. For now though, this stage where the growth is evident day after day, is really rewarding.
Really, the ultimate goal is to build the horse that I want for myself for the future. A confident one with a good work ethic that’s happy in his work and trusts me. Every single thing we do is laying the ground work for that, brick by brick.
Being able to pony him off of Henry (and use Henry as a “demo horse” to introduce things that Presto has been a bit unsure about, like fly spray and baths) has been really awesome. Yesterday we did our 3rd ponying session, our second one outside of the ring. This time we covered pretty much the entire property – both of the big hay fields, the corn field, and walked around the front of the barns up by the owner’s house. We walked through brush, up and down hills, through some deep sand, in between rows of tall corn stalks, over a natural ditch, near the road, and even paused to walk over a piece of a plywood a few times.
Aside from the fact that I love being able to expose him to this stuff at an early age, I feel like the physical conditioning is important too. His pasture is not super big, it’s pretty much totally flat, and he is not very active on his own. Event horses don’t get to spend their lives on perfectly groomed footing (especially not one of mine) so I want to make sure that his bones and tendons get a little bit of easy conditioning while he’s still growing. It’ll make him a stronger horse later on. We did do a couple one minute spurts of trotting yesterday too, including one go up the big hill and through some tall grass. We won’t do this more than once or twice a week, but I really love that we have the opportunity. I didn’t have the right situation to be able to do any of this when Sadie was this age.
The ponying has also seemed to make his tying skills pretty darn solid. He learned on day 1 that resistance was futile, and he was going to end up following the pressure whether he wanted to or not. He doesn’t even question it now. Glad we learned that lesson while he’s still small.
The ponying is also getting him used to having me above him, directing him, patting him, and giving verbal cues. We’ve mastered the cluck, and are about 60% there on the “whoa”. Sometimes he’s not as keen on that part. Yesterday he also got a lesson in learning to move away from leg pressure when he tried to lay his body a little too much into Henry’s sides. I reached out with my leg and moved his body back over into his own space.
Henry continues to reprimand him with pinned ears or a snaking head when appropriate, but he’s remained super rock solid in his ability to put up with nonsense, and he seems to understand that this is a baby. I got really lucky on that one.
On the other days when we’re not ponying, we work on crosstie manners, grooming, farrier-related stuff, bathing, loading, tying, or in-hand work. The sessions stay short, and we alternate what we work on. Turns out there’s plenty to do with a yearling.
The most fun part, though, is how much I’m starting to understand his personality, and how much he’s starting to come out of his shell. He was so reserved and guarded at first, but now I’m starting to get some interaction and see what he’s really like. We’re starting to understand each other and speak the same language. No matter how many horses I’ve had or how many times I’ve done this, building the relationship with the horse is always the most fun part for me.
Tomorrow is Presto’s big ChopChop appointment – he’s getting gelded – so cross all your crossables and offer a few firstborn children to the Horse Gods that everything goes okay. I’m extremely nervous, because I’m just nervous about anything even remotely medical with this horse. Surgery… EEK. Hopefully it’ll all be fine.