In fun, not lame horse news, I took Pilot out to the xcountry field again this morning. He got his feet done yesterday, but I didn't know when the farrier was going to be there and since he was the only one on the list, I didn't want to be on him when they pulled in. Basically, he's been hanging out in his field getting fatter by the second the past two days.
I went up with Pilot on the longe since a) we're not allowed to jump in the xcountry field alone, and b) even if we were, jumping a green baby horse who's only been up there once before is not my idea of a good time. I started off by chasing away the stupid-as-sin 2yo filly away while the rest of the mares grazed obliviously, then clearing away torn up jump pieces.
|signs of naughty pony damage: plain old cribbing, the shits.|
|bear damage: ripped up and knocked over.|
|more bear damage--that used to be another log before it rotted and was torn up.|
PA has an estimated 15,000 black bear population, and we live in a pretty bear-dense area (more north by my house than at the barn, but BO has seen them before). The majority of the xcountry jumps have been in the field for at least a decade, and they're almost all logs, so they rot out. The xcountry field has a well maintained food plot on one side and miles of woods on the other. What's more delicious than stopping for bugs in logs while on your way to corn? Hence the bear damage.
I warmed Pilot up with a few trot/halt transitions on the longe to make sure he was listening, then snuck his circle over to include the branch. He didn't care and kept on trotting. Made the circle a little bigger to include the cherry log and he seemed surprised to see it, but went anyway.
|these are all off my crappy cell phone, so sorry for the quality.|
I had him do that a few times before stopping and giving him a cookie for a job well done. There's nothing this horse loves more than a cookie and being told he's a good boy.
Figuring he'd grasped the concept of longeing over a jump, I took him over to the ditch. He had a big snort and a one-step scoot sideways, but he's got a great brain and he processed the new monster as, "Holy shit! So scary! Let's see what it is!" I let him take as long as he wanted to sniff around it before I put him on a tiny circle and sent him towards it. The first couple of times, he threw on the brakes and went skittering backwards. I give him some encouragement with the longe whip and sent him right back towards it. He finally got to it, threw on the brakes, and then just stood there and looked at me like, "What am I supposed to do now?" I gave him a big scratch for trying to figure things out, then led him away and sent him to it again.
This time he launched over and let out several giant bucks. I stopped him and gave him a cookie for going over, but then had to switch tactics and put an immediate kibosh on the bucking. He threw a couple mini bucks on Sunday after jumping and I let them slide, but today he was in bronco mode and I don't want him thinking that's acceptable to do after a jump. Like, ever. As soon as he landed, I had him immediately halt and stand. If he managed to do it without bucking, he got a scratch. If he didn't, he got sent forward to the canter on the circle for a few laps before trying again. Scratches quickly won out over extra work and he went back to being polite.
After the ditch was conquered and totally boring, we went over to the baby bank. Going up, not an issue. He stepped up politely at both the walk and trot. Going down? From the walk, totally fine. From the trot, we had to revisit the bucking issue a couple of times. Learning that stepping off the bank is easier for baby horse to keep his balance than launching into orbit helped.
|"oh, you do it like this! got it."|
I was going to be done there since I was almost out of cookies and he had been pretty good, but we were walking back towards the barn and he saw the stacked logs, locked on, and veered off to them. I let the longe line out and without any encouragement from me, he jumped right over them.
I let him go over them a few times since he seemed to be enjoying himself, then called it quits for real. I told him to whoa, he stopped at the end of the longe and stood there (horses coming in uninvited is not allowed--so rude) while I fished out my final cookie. Before I even got it out, he'd turned himself around and went happily trotting in the other direction over the logs. With zero encouragement, he stayed on his circle and made a few more laps before halting himself and turning to look at me.
|taking the large side on his own accord.|
He definitely got his cookie after that, and lots of extra scratches. Someone is going on the trailer with Bobby next year to be a baby event horse. I actually played around with the idea of entering him at Burgundy's last event of the year in their Intro division, but Bobby needs extra pony attention ($$) and the cats and dogs are due to get their Seresto collars replaced ($$$$), so Pilot will have to wait until next year.
If I can just get him to carry the forward attitude over to the arena, even the dressage work will be fun!