This is a couple days late, but it’s still worth writing about.
Studly and I took our first steps on Monday! It was the next logical step in our progression, having been stuck in a mounting work loop with while Ron was away, but I still wasn’t sure Monday was the right day for it. Studly had gotten a long weekend because Friday was too cold to work horses and it was still pretty chilly on Monday morning. I let him loose before working him and I was glad I did. He tore around, standing on his hind legs and wheeling around to change direction, bucking and kicking out harder than he’s ever done. Watching him do that, I made the decision to take things slowly today. Because Ron never interferes with my plan.
Once he was done, he came back to me and we went to work. He lunged quite nicely in both directions and didn’t change at all when Jo came in the arena. She took over and we headed to the mounting block. As we started our mounting routine, the microphone clicked on. “Just get on.” I did. “Why are you still on? Get off!” I got off. “Do that a dozen times.” I did, apologizing for hitting Jo and falling off the block several times. When nothing else came out of the loudspeaker, I instructed Jo to walk Studly off the way we had been doing. Immediately, the microphone clicked on. “Trot. Now!” Jo and Studly trotted off. To his credit, Studly didn’t scoot off, even though I could tell he wanted to. “Halt. Back up. Now, now.” Jo did what she could, and Ron said nothing more. We changed directions and did the same on-off repetitions and trot-halt-back work. When Ron said nothing, we discussed the next step between ourselves while I was doing another set of mounting and dismounting. Studly seemed pretty calm with everything, almost to the point of boredom. He kept shifting his weight, but not in a worried manner.
Should we walk? Yeah, let’s walk. First, though, let’s go backwards. Jo and I had been discussing this for the last two weeks but hadn’t really made a plan for it. I thought that he might be more comfortable going backwards so he could get used to balancing my weight. He was also used to moving backwards and sideways around the mounting block because Jo would always line him up for me. She asked for a step backwards and he gave it to her. We went forward and back a bit, then I hopped down and Jo took him around the arena, changed directions and came back. We did the same thing in the other direction, then gave him a break by lunging for a bit.
Tuesday we actually walked all the way around the arena! There were a lot of halts and praises in the process, but he stayed with us and listened quite politely as we did this bizarre new thing. Snow was melting and sliding off the roof, which made things tense at times, but all three of us handled it well and no accidents happened. Studly startled when the snow slid but he stayed next to Jo, who was way more calm than I was (I have GOT to stop tensing up!). Studly stopped reacting when he realized that Jo didn’t care. We went both directions, one at a time so we could mount and dismount on both sides. He was far more relaxed than I expected him to be! Again, he’s almost getting bored, but not bored enough to try to entertain himself.
Because we had so much time left, we decided to do more than just one lap in each direction. I thought briefly that we might be getting greedy but Studly seemed perfectly content to keep doing whatever we had planned. I got back on and Jo led us around to the left, then switched sides and led us around to the right. we did fewer transitions to test his ability to support me and keep walking, then I started adding my weight to Jo’s halt aids. He halted more smoothly when I did that! So exciting! I then started adding my leg when Jo asked him to walk. He walked exactly the same as he had been, unbothered by my leg. Right now that’s working in our favor because he’s responding so quietly, but I do wonder if that will work against us later.
I couldn’t believe we got that far. I’m so proud of him! I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks bring. The end of the quarter is rapidly approaching and the end of the quarter brings the end of my time with Studly. I think I’ll miss the little dude, he’s turning into a pretty sweet guy.
Tuesday was my last day working with Jo. I’m going to miss her, as a friend and as a training partner. We got on well together and Studly had finally accepted her as part of the group. She made everything so much less stressful because we could chat about random things while we worked AND she could stay focused on Studly at the same time. I had a very hard time finding someone to replace her and even though I did, I’m sure it won’t be the same. Rebecca will be helping out for the rest of the term, and while she does a good job, she’s no Jo. We get on fine (she’s actually one of my grooms and I love teaching her) and she is a good listener, but Studly is so hyper-aware of change that I’m afraid it’s going to set us back. I’m sure Ron will have some comments on our work. He’ll expect us to proceed with everything as if nothing has changed. Ideally, that’s exactly what we would do, but I want to allow time for Studly to get to know Rebecca so that he can relax around her before we have to move on to real riding.