If you don’t want to hear about what a good baby Presto is, you should turn back now. You’ve been warned.
On Monday my trainer was having an XC schooling day at Pine Hill again. I really wanted to take Presto but my truck is still in the shop, thus I am without a tow vehicle. Hillary (da real MVP) stepped in and said she’d really like to take Luna too, and offered to come pick me up. Heck yes. Baby horse brigade.
Her rig is pretty big and getting in and out of gates and turning around can be a PITA, so we opted to just drop the ramp and load Presto on the road – it was early morning and it’s a pretty quiet road anyway, so there was no traffic, and it took us all of 30 seconds to toss all my stuff in the tack room and put Presto in the trailer. Bless him, he thought it was fun.
We’d made it almost all the way there when we heard a POP and realized we had a blowout. Great. We were having a bit of a hard time loosening a couple of the lug nuts but luckily a nice guy stopped and helped (which made me think about how having an impact wrench or breaker bar – mechanic SO votes for a breaker bar since you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged – in my trailer might not be a bad idea). Luckily it didn’t take very long before we were back on our way, so we arrived, got tacked up, and were only a little late.
I stuck Presto on the lunge line first, just to see what I had… last time he came to Pine Hill by himself and there were just a few horses on the property so I wasn’t sure if adding a buddy and more horses/chaos would spin him up or not. The answer is not. Like I could barely get him to canter. So after a few minutes with no excitement I called it good and got on.
The plan for this visit was pretty much the same as last time – just hack around with the group, go in the water, etc. I was hoping that this time I could trot around a bit, but we had no grand plans or expectations. Since we’d been a little late the group had already started jumping when we got out there, so in the beginning we mostly just stood and watched. Eventually they moved over to the little baby starter bank, and I thought Presto could do that. The holy trinity of cross county is ditches, banks, and water, all of which can be introduced to them right from the start in their simplest and smallest forms. This particular bank was a very small little step up and down that’s on the starter course, and he’s done banks plenty of times on the lunge line. We joined the line of horses walking down it, and at the last second I was like “maybe a down bank wasn’t the brightest idea for his first mounted XC obstacle…” but Presto didn’t even blink. He walked to the edge, peered at the bank, and stepped right down with zero fanfare. The line turned around and we all hopped back up it, which he found equally as simple. Well ok then.
After that we were off to the water. We walked across as a group then we each trotted back and forth by ourselves. While we walked across Presto was relatively certain he wanted to roll, but he forgets about that once he gets a little more speed. He had certainly remembered the water from last time and was much more sure of how to trot through it.
My friend Kathy was on her new OTTB, and we had gone through the water right after her at one point. She was going to jump a log after the water and asked if I wanted to as well. There was a super teeny one that was definitely under a foot tall, pretty much just a big ground rail, and I said “that one”. So she trotted over it, stopped, and turned around to wait for me to follow. I grabbed my neck strap just in case, but Presto literally trotted over it like it was a rail on the ground. I was laughing as I let go of the neck strap and pulled him up, at which moment the OTTB decided he HATED Presto coming near him (fair enough, most horses don’t like Presto very much, it’s like they can sense that he’s a pest) and wheeled around at him. Presto, ever respectful of horse authority, spun away from him as fast as he could, and since I was bent over laughing and had already let go of my neck strap, I was politely deposited over his shoulder in the process. Oops.
I’ve been saying since the first time I sat on this horse that sooner or later he was going to move too fast and I’d go right over his shoulder, and I was 100% right. HA. Luckily it was a very soft landing in a sandy area, and Presto was just standing there looking at me like “well that was a weird way to dismount, human.”. It was hilarious. I led him up to a BN box and used it to get back on, no harm no foul. We trotted back over the log (again literally trotted over) the other way and kept going to trot through the water. Presto was so proud of himself by that point, he cantered the last few steps out of the water like he was having a grand time.
We went around with the group through the woods, with Presto leading in spots. Last time he wanted to be in the lead but wasn’t quite confident enough to go up there on his own while we were in the woods, but this time he took charge. If other horses spook, he’ll get looky too (it’s like he respects his elders and their opinions a little too much sometimes), but he’s quite confident in his own regard. He was more patient about standing still this time too, when other horses left the group to go jump. Last time we had to make a lot of circles, but this time we made very few. He’s figuring it out.
When we came back out in the main field I wanted to pop over the teeny tiny Green As Grass level box, juts to end on a good note and also to make sure he wouldn’t be nappy about leaving the other horses since he’d just spent pretty much the whole ride standing in and traveling along with the group. I thought the little box might get a little bit more out of him than the teeny log by the water had. But he… literally trotted over it.
That made us all laugh. He was good about leaving the group though, he trotted away without resistance.
My trainer missed it and wanted to see it again, but clearly the box was boring. Looking at my other options I was like ok how about the BN faux ditch? It’s two itty bitty logs with some dark mulch in between. Historically some horses take real exception to that thing (it’s like they either don’t even notice it or they think it’s a portal to hell, there’s no in between) but he’s hopped over it before on the lunge line, so I didn’t think he’d be worried but I did think it might be enough to at least get a little bit more than a bored trot step. And omg, he was so cute.
I mean, he was still so unimpressed that he trotted immediately after he landed, but that was his first actual effort. “Ditches”, banks, and water (all in the simplest, littlest way possible)… check, check, and check. He’s basically an event horse now right? 😉
I remain really impressed with his brain. He’s definitely not a deadhead by any means (thank god) but the more we do, the more I can see all the things that I wanted when I bred him. Those were his first “jumps” if you can even call them that, and he had zero hesitation or confusion about it. It’s like this game makes total sense to him… I’m pretty sure I could have just gone around and trotted the whole GAG course without a problem if I’d wanted to. He won’t actually start jumping or XC schooling for real until next year, but it was fun to get a tiny glimpse at what’s waiting in there in it’s rawest form. I also think it’s really good for him to go have these very easy, laid back experiences now, so that a good foundation is in place when it actually comes time to start asking more of him.
Presto is getting this week off as we get some rain and a cold front (god only knows how much galloping and yeehawing is going on out in his pasture today with a 30 degree temperature drop) and yesterday I went out and gave him an oatmeal cream pie and some belly scratches. Tough life for that kid, I tell ya. Next outing – maybe a trail ride in the next couple weeks? We shall see…