It's possible that I'm glad today because the sun is shining and there's more than 8 hours of daylight. However, what I'm really glad about is the progress that my horse, BeeGee, is making in spite of limited daylight, good footing, and good weather. Today, if I had a little round pen, I would've gotten on him. He was really relaxed, the most relaxed I've ever seen him awake.
The backstory: a neighbor had a free Thoroughbred that she couldn't ride and wanted him to go to a good home. I wasn't exactly ready for a horse yet but I liked him and he had done some eventing in the past. And he was free. For the month of November I brought him to the stable I usually ride out for a 30-day trial. I got a lot of information during that time, mostly that he needed way more training than I could afford. Right after Thanksgiving I brought him to my friend's house for pasture board. I had no real plan except to go as slowly with this horse as I needed to go.
The first week was rough. He worried about everything, including being in an adjacent pasture to the mares. He wanted to be in with them more than anything in the world. After a little bit of a permission battle, we let him in and let the chips fall where they would. He ended up with a nice bite mark on his hiney, which I'm sure he deserved.
My plan evolved every day. I was going to start from the beginning. It was too dark and rainy to ride anyway so why not begin at the beginning. He did know some things, like to hold still while I haltered him. At first I had to constantly remind him to stay out of my space, stay out of my space, stay out of my space. Go when I tell you to go and stand when I tell you to stand. Many days were successful but some were not. Some days I had to go back to get out of my space, stand there for 5 seconds and call it good. Always end on a good note.
Then I started asking him for more difficult tasks. Stand there for 30 seconds. Put your feet where I tell you too. Walk as fast or as slow as I do. Stay out of my space. Move your shoulder. Go in reverse. Go in reverse around obstacles. Walk down the road with me. Without screaming in my ear please. Stay out of my space, stay out of my space.
And then this week he walked down the road with me and only whinnied once. Stay out of my space. And the next day he walked down the road with me and didn't whinny at all. Oh joy!
Keep in mind I've had to limit these training sessions to the itty bitty bit of daylight before work and on a weekend day. I downloaded an app that told me when functional daylight occurred. Even in darkest December up here near the 49th parallel, I get a little daylight by 7:30 and have 30 minutes to do something, which can include feeding and picking up a little poop, then drive to work, change clothes, and be ready to work at 8:30.
Today (Saturday) I knocked a little mud off him (I prefer au natural horses and it's usually not cold enough here to warrant blankets very much. Sometimes I'll blanket when there's endless rain but this is another discussion for another time), made him stand still. Yes, stand here. No, here. Thank you. And put on his front hoof boots as he's barefoot and the other day the gravel on the road seemed to bother him more than usual.
We walked over a couple obstacles on the ground, backed through them then went down the road. I prefer that he follows with his head at my shoulder but if he's relaxed enough to lag that's fine with me. We walked over to the neighbor's and up the road, past a sign, up to a driveway where some dogs were running around and came back. I don't go that way very often so I like to keep these sessions short and positive. We turned around and went back toward the farm. No change in pace. The truck that drove by didn't worry him. We kept going past the farm and to the deep dark woods. No worries. Turned around because all was really good. He looked twice at something we had already walked by and I asked him why it looked scary going in the other direction. Not that he could tell me but obviously something looked different going back in the other direction. I don't know but he didn't get in my space. When we got back, we did the very simple obstacle course again. Had to reverse twice to get it right but that's okay. As I said in the beginning, he was so relaxed that had I been in a confined space with decent footing. I would've gotten on him. Love that feeling of confidence and relaxation, that's why I'm so glad.