Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy on Horseback

Yesterday’s estimate of 45 minutes to get Esmerelda tacked up was a little optimistic. Let’s try more like an hour and a half to two hours. We brought four saddles, half a dozen girths, at least six or eight bits and bridles, assorted breastplates, saddle pads, and grooming supplies. With everything we brought, I managed to find one saddle combined with one girth that was small enough to fit, and an adequate bridle and bit. Before I could even start fitting the tack, however, I had to get her tied up and groomed, which involved me chasing her around the pasture to catch her, her dragging me around the property by the lead rope, me chasing her through the underbrush after she pulled the lead rope out of my hands, and a rodeo over tick spray.

Despite all that, it was great fun and it felt even better than I anticipated to be on top of a horse again, especially a horse that will be a project where I’m sure I’ll see a lot of progress over the next few weeks. She’s three years old and green broke; she doesn’t seem to want to buck or rear or spook, and she seems like a pretty quick study, but she has no manners whatsoever, minimal response to the aids, and she sees nothing wrong with grabbing the bit and making a U-turn if she doesn’t want to go somewhere. That said, she’s the kind of horse I like – spunky and opinionated enough to be a bit of a challenge, but smart enough to be a quick learner. Her small size may almost be a benefit in training her, since I found on our ride through the jungle that if she tries to grab the bit and turn, I’m strong enough to get the outside rein in both hands and pull her nose back around to my knee. From the looks she was giving me, I don’t think anyone ever did that to her before, but after only three or four attempts to turn, I could feel when she was grabbing the bit, and all I had to do was take a good hold of the rein and it was enough to deep her heading in the right direction – with a swishy tail and her ears laid back, but still continuing forward. We bought a chain shank in Spanish Lookout yesterday, so my plan for her right now is to work on her ground manners and break her habit of pointing her head where she wants to go and dragging whoever is on the other end of the lead rope. Then, I think I’ll do a lot of flatwork and get her to unfreeze and stretch her neck and give through her body, which should also help with the leading problem. We also need to work on her standing still while I get on and off, but I think that will go quicker too when she’s accepting the bit and not bracing against anything that puts her head and neck anywhere other than where she wants it.

While I was playing with the horse, Tom and Selwyn finished hanging the doors in the first cabin. Tom sat down and wrote up a good materials list so that when we go to Spanish Lookout tomorrow, we can get everything they need to spend the rest of this week and the beginning of next working on the cabin. Someday we’ll be able to move out of the camper!

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