Hillary left this morning to head back to Texas (boo). We had a super packed long weekend that I’ll have to go back and cover, but since Gemma got the spotlight last week I figured it was only fair that Presto get a bit of it this week. He actually earned it.
It has been a bit of a process for me, figuring this horse out. At first I was trying to find all the buttons, and then once I found them I wanted to move and change some of them a bit. He did not care for that idea at first… he went the way he went and didn’t understand why I was trying to do other things. There were several discussions about it, and a few tantrums, but after a few weeks we made it over the hump, and for the past week or two he’s been much better in his day to day work at home. The first day Hillary was here we took the horses to Majestic Oaks to school, and as I mentioned last week, he was a bit of a whirling dervish. Just excited to be back out, decided he got married to Gemma in the trailer, had a lot of opinions about leaving her, etc. He wasn’t terrible but he wasn’t great.
That seemed to be the final “switch flip” event though, because since then he’s been really damn good. More rideable, more obedient, not trying any of his favorite tricks to avoid having to work harder. I’m still mostly working on basic things with him, changing a few things to be more in line with how I ride, plus working on building his strength and topline back up, so his work has been fairly basic. We flat in the field a lot, walk and trot over poles, canter cavaletti exercises, etc. I haven’t really been jumping him though, aside from the cavaletti excercises, because I have the luxury of time and would rather do it correctly now than pay for it later. Slow is fast, and all that.
We wanted to go XC schooling again before Hillary left, and this time we picked Sweet Dixie (I’m still extraordinarily mindblown about having so many options so close by… it’s insane.). Hillary was taking Henry, and I waffled a bit between Gemma and Presto. They both need the outings, but I thought that Gemma got a lot out of Majestic Oaks and was really good there, whereas Presto had more room for improvement. So, off we went on Friday with both boys over to Sweet Dixie and met up with another friend.
Presto was definitely less wild coming off the trailer this time – I think having Henry as his companion instead of Gemma gives it a little bit of a different vibe. Henry is perpetually bored and deeply uninterested in any of Presto’s shenanigans, so he mostly just completely ignores him and does not engage. Gemma is more tolerant of Presto and entertains him a bit too much sometimes.
We tacked up and got on, and I went off to warm him up. He wanted to be a little nappy the first time I rode him directly away from the other horses. One smack, a “no sir, absolutely not”, and I put his ass to work… he gave up quickly and said yes ma’am, and I didn’t have any more problems after that. I trotted and cantered him over a little log and he was actually super, so as we made our way around the course I picked a few Starter and BN jumps to hop him over. He seemed very happy to be out jumping the fun stuff and was surprisingly very good. Rideable and brave and for once in his life I felt like I actually had his full attention. We didn’t do a whole lot, but he was all in.
He got better and better as he went around, I think, and there were no more attempts at naughtiness like he’d had at Majestic Oaks. He seemed to be having fun with it. I’ve not really gotten to feel “XC Mode” on him before but I do think that’s definitely his phase. Pretty sure this was his first time seeing any XC since he ran River Glen last August, so I was pleased that he could come out and be as professional about it as he was.
Well, except for the first time I tried to canter through the water. That was… uh… a little green. Got to test the stickability of my new saddle. Thanks Noodle.
Then on Sunday I had my first lesson in Ocala. I’m literally around the corner from Steph Cauffman, who is friend/trainer of Libby, one of my Patrons and a long time reader/supporter. She helped facilitate the hookup, and Steph offered to come over to me rather than me have to deal with taking 3 horses over to her. That is a massive selling point when you’ve got two young, sometimes dingo-ish horses to wrangle. Hillary had a lesson on Henry, I had a lesson on Presto, and Steph rode Gemma. I’ll share more about Hillary’s lesson and Gemma’s ride tomorrow. For me and Presto, I really like how she approached us and her overall philosophy. She agreed with my general assessment of him and what he needs to work on, and thought I had the right approach, but she helped me kind of push through into the next stage. That’s what I needed, I think. I feel like I’m pretty good as self-assessment and getting the overall picture of what’s going on, but I need someone on the ground to push me for more and to help me keep moving the goalposts forward. Now that his buttons are more where I want them, it’s time to start pressing them more.
We just did a flat lesson, and nothing particularly long since he was trying very hard to do what we wanted. I like that she has my same theory of “I’d rather quit 5 minutes too early than 5 minutes too late”. I think with a horse like Presto especially, continuing to nag on him would really frustrate him. Plus he’s still got a lot more muscle and fitness to put back on… there’s no use in pushing him past what he can physically handle at the moment. It’s too early days to say for sure but I do think Steph and I have pretty similar ideas/styles/etc, so we’ll see where it goes. I’m gonna try to schedule something else with her this week or next week.
And that’s how Noodle earned his first gold star week! He was due for one, that’s for sure.
One other note for today – we’ve re-opened the BreedRideCompete store to offer 8 more pedigree reports for the month of July. I gave Patrons early access last night and as of this moment we’ve only got 3 spots left, so if you missed out last month and want to get in on this cycle, be quick!