While Henry has been busy chucking his shoes into the next county and having Owie Footies, Presto has been coming in clutch. After his XC adventure I gave him the week off, since that was a lot and he IS just 3 1/2 (as of tomorrow anyway) but he remains happy and eager to do things, soaking it all up like a large, hyperactive, giraffe-shaped sponge.
He’s somewhere around 30 rides now (I’ve stopped counting, but he’s either at 29 or 30, pretty sure) and admittedly I’ve done it at a glacial pace. Over the last six months, if we’re being specific. Not the typical way to get the first 30 days on a horse, but it’s seemed to have worked fine for him. I wanted to go slow to allow his body ample time to adjust, particularly because he IS so gawky, and I’m pleased to see the slow but steady progress. He’s getting a little strength in his topline, his balance has improved immensely, and he’s still happy and fresh mentally. He still wants to come in and do stuff, and still meets me at the gate. I’ve given him the odd week or two off here and there, and dialed the pressure up sometimes versus dialed it way back other times, just based on the horse I have in front of me that day. I try to react to what he’s telling me and tailor his “program” to suit, rather than have a rigid specific plan in mind for him.
The real perk of all this slow, pressure-free time is that I’ve learned so much about him mentally. His instincts, his reactions, how he thinks, how he learns… it’s obviously really good information to have before you really start doing anything hard. I obviously already knew a lot about his brain in general from… raising him… but riding adds a whole different dynamic. He rides and thinks very much like a thoroughbred (which I am thrilled about) – he’s forward-thinking, he’s sensitive, he wants to please, he’s smart, he needs finesse not force, and he’s a bit goofy and hard to focus. That’s my type. We’re learning each other.
I also feel like he’s right on the brink of that one last big physical transformation from baby to horse. The yearly growth spurt that he always does in late spring/early summer is waning, and he’s beginning to put on a little bit of mass. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he is still all legs and super narrow (and sunbleached to all hell), but his neck and hindquarters are starting to fill in a bit. His rides consist mostly of walking, which I think helps too. Slow, steady, miles, trying to build the foundation that he’ll need later when the “work” part starts. I feel like in a few months we’ll have a very different, very adult-looking Presto, and it’s pretty exciting. We’re close. So close.
On Sunday I tacked him up and rode him out to the back for a walk hack. We have a few little hills out there that make it a perfect mini-fitness center. I like to get him out there and do some laps in a really forward marching walk, to help build up that topline and strengthen his hind end. He was not blessed with a naturally super strong back or loin connection, so I need to be mindful of that and work to improve it. Presto is still pretty adamant that walking down hills is really stupid, and sometimes when he gets bored of walking he likes to randomly break to trot just to see if I’ll let him (I don’t, because clearly my one job in life is to ruin all his fun).
I admittedly haven’t done a training vlog update for him in a while, mostly because I was spending so much time making them and not getting enough response/interest for it to seem justifiable. Maybe we’ll just go longer in between them. I dunno. Sometime over the winter he’ll probably get a month or two off before we come back and start to dial things up for his 4yo year. We’ll see what his brain and body are telling me as we go along, as far as when and how long. I’d like to get him out to hilltop with the hunt (there’s usually a nice quiet mostly w/t group on the bigger hunt days) a time or two before his break, but we’ll see what happens. I’m trying not to have any set in stone plans or expectations at this point.
I remain pleased with how his new saddle is working out, I’ve been watching his back really carefully and he’s shown zero discomfort and seems to move quite well in it. I hit the saddle with a little Belvoir after our ride on Sunday, but it’s looking really good. I’m not having any issues with dye leech or discoloration, and I’m pleased with the lederbalsam finish. Do have a fiery hatred for swapping my leathers and irons back and forth between the boys’ saddles though. I’m strongly considering trying to search for another pair of secondhand FreeJump stirrups as well, instead of just leathers (I’ve got the leathers situation covered), because we all know it would just be a matter of time before I chucked a saddle in a trailer to go somewhere and forgot to move the stirrups over, and ended up with a stirrupless saddle. WE ALL KNOW THAT WOULD HAPPEN. But also I love the FreeJumps so much that all other stirrups are pretty much dead to me now, so… what’s a girl to do. I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled for a deal, that’s what I’m gonna do. If you see some FreeJump Pro’s for a smokin’ deal, let me know.