It’s been a while…
More than a while, in fact. It’s been 2 years. Looking back, it’s hard to say where all that time has gone while we convert my English eventer to a versatile western horse. And I’m not sure if I’d known how long it would take, I might have settled for a simpler option.
Lyla (Cansfield), always positive and never a hard word, offered the view that if I could spare 2 hours a day and started with all the necessary experience, we’d have been well away by now. But I knew from the start that Peanut is a horse with “character”. And he has a knack. He puts my world to rights when we’ve had a good session. That’s worth its weight in gold.
The joy of it is that, these days, I more often come away from the stables with that glow of a good workout than I do with a new bruise.
It’s been frustrating. Just as it seemed as though we were ready to saddle up, health issues have intervened. First it was Peanut who was out of action for a couple of months. Then, just as he was ready for work again, I had to have emergency surgery on my hand.
But, just now, watching a video of me working with Peanut about 6 months ago, I suddenly realise how far we’ve come. I look at myself waving my “carrot stick” around like a loon. Tossing the rope and poor Peanut walking over me in his confusion. It’s no wonder there have been times when he’s just reared up, ripped the rope out of my hand and gone off in disgust!
But, suddenly (will I regret writing this, I wonder?), that doesn’t seem to happen any more. I just have to lean into his space a bit to get him to lift his pace when he’s out on the line. And a gentle shake of the rope brings him down a pace. Lift the rope, bend my head and look at his rear and he disengages and stops. Ears pricked and waiting.
All very well – but….
…. we’re not yet off on our journey to convert an English eventer into a versatile, western horse. “Stop talking about it, get on ‘im and ride”, one of my (successful western riding competitor) friends keeps saying. But those that were around when I jumped in the deep end and started competing before I could ride 20 years ago are a little more understanding.
Back then, I wasn’t too concerned about the horsemanship side of things as long as we came home with lots of rosettes. Fortunately, George already had it in him and taught me how to ride. I was lucky, with George, to have a horse that just gave without asking. I loved him. ‘Course I did but I didn’t understand him in the horseman’s sense.
It would be arrogant to say that I’ve fixed that particular gap in my horsey skills. But Peanut has shown me a lot more and I believe I’ve at least crossed the bridge into that mindset. The old me would take reluctance as the horse having a laugh with me and be brisk in my response.
Now, although KP is of course capable of messing about, my first response is always to look to myself. See if I’m confusing him. Of course, if it’s not me, then he gets a kick in the slats (only joking).
At last, a proper saddle
Over our last few sessions we’ve had George’s old saddles hanging around – just in case! And the time finally came when we thought it was right to offer him something he’s never seen before. A slick forked roper. Probably as heavy as you can get and certainly about twice as heavy as the “English” dressage saddle being used when I met him.
But, with Lyla watching on and guiding me, he quietly accepted first the pad and then the roper. Now, of course, the old me would have just swung myself up into the saddle and taken my chances.
Lyla had obviously seen something about KP that bothered her. Something that my only semi-trained eye had missed. She “suggested” that she do the next bit and quietly took the lead rope from me.
Good job she did because, Peanut was initially obviously uneasy with the saddle on him.
But, of course, Lyla had the measure of him and he quickly came back and did some quiet circles for her. Walk and jog. Sweet as anything. So now we’re back to some patient, quiet, routine work with the saddle sitting on the rail where he can see it. It’ll be on him again soon.
We may be a good way off where we’re going to be a cause for concern amongst the versatile western riding competition community but, as long as we’re making progress and I’m learning, I don’t care. I know we’re on the right track and the plan is holding good.