Tony has been on the road and back again since the last post. He grew up quite a bit in a very short time, it is really fun and interesting to watch the transformation. The change from being an innocent baby who doesn’t know much to a young horse with some life experience is quite a precious place, as our goal is to then mature and expose that horse without loosing any of the “good stuff”. Tony is such a kind horse by nature and is very quick to think through things and stay calm, thus learn quickly from his experiences.
Tony had a bit of a hard time with saddling as he would try to move off as the saddle would go from his left eye to his right. This issue was addressed by really helping him to be comfortable with moving his hind more and more freely, getting comfortable with the flag as something to move away from as well as something to accept and soften to as it changed eyes, and came in and out of blind spots. Being more free in moving his hind, specifically to the right, was the biggest part of turning saddling into a very successful experience. So many horses will stand braced and fearful to be saddled, this carries over to every part of horsemanship. Helping the horse understand and the preparation to get that done also carries over, but this time, in a positive way.
While being ridden, Ricky is putting a lot of effort into helping him move out freely and softly. He is going about that by doing as much as he can on a loose rein or with just one rein at a time. Using two reins on a young horse can really cause that horse to feel bound up and restricted, until they feel comfortable with all the changes that come with wearing a saddle and having someone on their back. When Ricky asks for downward transitions with his body, and if Tony needs help finding that, he will use one rein to taper him down. This will carry over for when it is time to use two reins, as the body cues stay as the constant and primary cue. Going about things like this also helps to keep from inhibiting forward movement in the young horse, something that is also very important in a good saddle horse.
Another thing Ricky helped Tony to understand was getting gentle about a rope. Tony especially didn’t like that rope coming back to him and under his nose after it was thrown. Something like a rope coming up to them then going into the blind spot under their nose is very common and goes away quickly (with most horses) with a little time dedication. Having the horse trust that it can move its feet if it needs to is a big part of them gaining confidence in that area. Allowing a horse to feel like it can move it’s feet but ask it to be still or direct its feet in a specific way is so much about the emotional support a person offers their horse. Tony has really come to check in with humans when he isn’t quite sure how he should feel about certain things that are new or initially fearful to him.
Just last week here at home, Tony gathered a couple hundred calves from out in the hills, then break-away roped and sorted down the alley. While they were gathering Ricky had Tony ride with the other horse, then go away and be alone quite a bit too. Ricky also put Tony in the position to turn the bunch of calves, to learn to hande and get comfortable with all of that energy coming toward him. These kinds of real life experiences seem to really keep the “try” in a horse as they seem to put it together that this is why they have been learning and practicing all of this new stuff! Feeling where a horse is coming from and getting the relationship to where they know you feel of them is also a place of immense growth. All of the energy of so many calves coming toward you and your horse can be very intimidating until they understand that it is a place that they can control and it is a place where they learn the importance of their job and doing what is asked of them. When they get to the other side of this trouble most horses are never the same again, in a great way. (And when you get a horse in trouble in a place like this you also get a huge opportunity for personal growth!)
While roping, Ricky continued to help Tony with the “issue” of the rope coming up under his chin. He would set up shots where the calves would travel from his left to right, and as he would throw and catch the calf, he would have Tony follow. Sending the right front foot to the right, towards the rope, would instill immense confidence in the whole situation, specifically moving into the rope and having all of that energy in the spot that was harder for him.
Day to day life has also helped Tony in his growth and maturity. He comes in the barn everyday and stands tied, the other horses continue to teach him manners, and our interactions with him are always with as much quality as we can offer; all of these things seem small but do a lot for the mind of a young horse. Tony is also gentle enough now that he will nicely put his butt in the way so that he can get a good tail scratch. Horses wanting to be with us is a goal and huge compliment for us, Tony is genuinely gaining that preference more every day.