Tuesday evening, Eli gave me his best Tasmanian Devil impression, zooming around on the longe line and bucking while squealing and snorting. The behavior is his winter weather M.O. If I can figure out a way to film it safely, I will, because it is hilarious. I then proceed to get on him after and he’s all like, “but lady, I’m tiiii–yerrrrd.” Another winter-related complication involves coyotes and darkness. Coyotes sound VERY close even if they aren’t, and get active at night. Eli heard them howling and yipping last night, stopped in his tracks and looked into the darkness in the direction of the howling noises. The arena lights throw plenty of light throughout the arenas, but this makes the darkness surrounding the arenas all the more pitch blacker. So clearly, gigantic, fire-breathing, scaly Hell hounds lurked just beyond the safety of the lights and the yipping convinced Eli he was next on the canids’ dinner menu. So much for productivity on Tuesday–damage control became the priority.
Wednesday was not much better. Riding during other people’s lessons is way harder than it should be. There’s plenty of room, so that’s okay. But the instructor talking loudly and clucking all the time at a pokey school horse is misunderstood by Eli–he thinks it’s aimed at him. Does this make my horse a narcissist? I have to pet him a lot to reassure him, that no, I do not need him to go faster. She ain’t clucking at you, buddy. Additionally, someone decided to start mowing at 7:30 at night, over rocks. Eli jumped out of his skin at that noise, which honestly, can I blame him? No. It sounded like automatic weapons firing, but louder. So our canter was a bunch of starting and stopping, with some spooking while falling out of the canter into a messy, gangly trot thrown in. All in fading light, which is when the horse-eating monsters come out. I’m just going to try to forget his ride ever happened.
Thursday my plan was to let Eli hang out in a paddock before I got tacked up, whether he had been turned out earlier in the day or not. Then I would approach riding Eli like I used to when he first got to the farm–forward and straight, contact if he takes it but don’t even ask, trot a lot of big figure-8s, and maybe not even canter. And when we do canter, just go straight and halt in the corners and reverse directions before asking for the other lead. Good time to practice 2-point.
Well, guess what? MY PLAN WORKED! I love it when something I do actually works. Eli had been out Thursday, but I took him back out to a paddock and he just followed me around and occasionally pushed me along. I probably shouldn’t encourage that, but I thought it was cute. I even modified the riding to match Eli’s much-improved attitude. We trotted around and I had very little contact with the bridle end and he went forward, relaxed, and happy. I decided to canter in the same way, and skip the halts. That worked, too! I worked on 2-point, and even jumped a little–just a cavaletti-sized jump in the middle of a big figure 8. And then we finished trotting in and cantering out of one of the lines. He was quiet, adjustable, but not at all dull. All this during dusk, and I had the ring mostly to myself. Magic. Hopefully I’ll get the same horse today, or something close.