Monday, January 21, 2013

So it begins....

I have begun work on Mr. Puck in earnest now. For a while now I have been saddling him up and sitting on him, but I couldn't have gone anywhere even if I'd wanted to-- he had no "go" button installed yet! So we've worked in the round pen on verbal cues, in hand on pressure cues, and most recently, I began long lining him!

I've been the young horse crash test dummy for many years, but with my own Puck, I had to begin training the next generation, since I could not be in two places at once! Haley has been my able bodied assistant, first laying across him like a sack of potatoes while I walked him, then sitting up and going for a little pony ride. He has handled everything like a champ, so this weekend Haley and I let him do his first T-R-O-T!!

He was beautifully relaxed and uphill, no thought of naughtiness at all. His brakes are still a little questionable, but that, like the steering, will come. I can't ask for a better head on his shoulders!

We've gone at a snail's pace with Puck, making sure he was completely at ease with each new task before beginning the next, and it shows in how confidently he faces each new task, and how much he looks to me for support when he is unsure. It is such an amazing feeling, finally starting my own horse, and being able to do it completely my own way!

Next up, free jumping??

Puck as a yearling.
Photo (c) Shorthorse Studios

Friday, January 11, 2013

Love, Joy, or Both?

Sgilti at Otter Creek Intermediate.
Image (c)Xpress Foto
Recently, I looked back at Sgilti Lightfoot's (aka Wonderhorse) competition record. I remember our time together as fighting the odds-- a nobody horse and a nobody rider, coming together to take on the world! We defied the odds and defied expectations, and for that, Sgilti won an eternal place in my heart (and guaranteed retirement from my checkbook). But now, a few years and a few horses later when I looked back at the raw numbers, I see a very different picture. Sgilti and I were, quite frankly, not very good. Our dressage was middling, our SJ was not ideal, and even our XC record was littered with the occasional 20 penalties. So, is it naive of me to think of him as the greatest horse ever? Maybe. Or maybe it was this lack of perfection that drove me to keep fighting. Maybe if he'd been perfect, I would have rested on my laurels and "moved on" with life as so many aspiring riders are wont to do.

At the Florida CCI* jog
(c)Xpress Foto
Adam and I started dating at the end of Sgilti's career. He saw me enjoy my last few rides with the old man, then watched me struggle for a year with Wolfn, and now watches Zahra and I, and he said something very insightful the other day (good work for the non-horsey type!!). He said "I like watching you and Zahra, because you work together. It always seemed like you and Wolfn were working against each other. And Sgilti looked like he just did what he was told."

That comment got me thinking about Love and Joy. When you boil it down, those are the reasons I event: Love of my horse, and the Joy of the ride. Maybe its overly simplistic, but I feel like Sgilti competed for Love. He wasn't that good, and maybe it wasn't as much fun for him as I might have liked, but he did his best with his limited abilities to make me happy. He did it for me, and that took us pretty far. I Loved that horse. We worked our way up the eventing ranks together. We probably had no business competing at Intermediate, but he still did it. He gave me all he had, every day, even if it wasn't to be our day.

Oh, Wolfn is over jumping? What else is new?
(c)Xpress Foto
Wolfn, on the other hand, was supremely talented. She enjoyed cross country for the Joy of galloping. I remember the first time out on cross country with her, when I let her open up her stride, and she took it and flew. It was exhilarating! That mare loved to gallop! Everything else-- the jumping, the dressage, trailrides at speeds other than gallop... none of those things were really "her bag." But I got away with making her do this other work because it was so easy for her. It wasn't until I jumped her over a 4' oxer that she finally used herself--and she still wasn't really trying that hard!! Going around Novice and Training courses was a total snooze for her, so of course she did it. There was no challenge. But I wonder what she would have done had she not had the trailering issue, if we'd been able to move up to Prelim and Intermediate. Then there would have been some challenge. A certain level of Trust would be involved. Would she have ever developed that? Or would she have stopped trying as soon as the work got hard? I'll never know.

Zahra at Richland this summer
 (c) Shannon Brinkman
Zahra and Puck, I believe, fall in the middle. They are both purpose bred sport horses, so the natural ability is there in spades, but there is something more as well. Puck's never had anyone else in his life except me, and he trusts me wholly and completely, which has been hugely apparent as he begins his training. When I am calm and deliberate, he is calm and happy. When I am the least bit anxious (e.g., trying to carefully pull a tick off his chest), he dances around nervously. Either way, he feeds off of me entirely. Conversely, Zahra has been handled by many people, as she was born at a college campus. Her personality is stamped with an upbringing of love and devotion from all of her many handlers (just imagine being a cute foal surrounded by college girls, and you get the picture!!). So although she is puppy dog sweet, she did not inherently trust me when I first bought her. We had a couple big trust issues early on (detailed here, here and here). But this fall, I feel like we've finally gelled as a team.

This past Summer, Zahra competed for Joy, because it was easy. Next year, as it gets harder, I hope it will be for Love and Joy. And Puck? He already does it for Love. He'll learn about Joy next year in the fox hunting field!
♥ Puck ♥