It took me MUCH longer than usual to get to the barn after work on Tuesday, and the night sank down around me, so much darker so much earlier. After getting on Eli, we moseyed up the hill to the arena and started by just walking around under the lights. The arena lights are very bright, and have a way of making the unilluminated space surrounding the arena that much darker.
If you’re a horse, that much spookier. I know what you’re thinking … Eli’s a spook, so … but hold up. Eli walked around just fine, with another horse hacking and a lone private lesson going on, there was plenty of room for everyone, until I heard a loud SORRY and a thud. I turned around to see a rider down (but not hurt, fortunately!), the horse in the lesson spooking, too, but still with rider, and the loose horse GALLOPING toward Eli. I dismounted right away, the horse zoomed right behind Eli into the adjacent smaller ring, and the trainer headed over to catch the loose horse and keep him from terrorizing the horse and rider walking in the smaller ring.
So what did Eli do? Barely anything. He snorted and his tail went straight up, and I could see his heart in his throat, but he stood there otherwise, and settled down after a minute and the loose horse was caught. Something in the dark had spooked the horse, but we never figured out what. I got back on Eli and thought we probably wouldn’t get much of anything done after that incident.
Eli proved me wrong. He felt like the horse he was when we left off a few months earlier. Big, powerful trot. Stepping over cavaletti easily. Cantering .. still a bit not-quite-put-together, but forward and not downhill. I would have thought a spooked, loose horse enough to undo Eli mentally, but he focused really, really well and we had a super productive ride.
Wednesday we had another over fences lesson, just trying to catch a few jumps and ride through a combination a few times before the weather turned. Eli was much calmer about jumping this time around, and handled the combination well.
Thursday and Friday Eli had two well-deserved days off, and the weather necessitated that anyway. Saturday we hauled over to an indoor (thought it was a covered, but it’s actually an indoor) about ten minutes from the barn and got to ride inside.
I’m pretty sure Eli has been in an indoor at least a few times, but in any new place he’s always suspicious & a bit spooky and hot to start. This time, he did absolutely peek at every new thing in the arena–like barrels, a tractor in the corner–and his first few laps at the trot he zipped around, a bit edgy. But then he settled right in and we got to school over a little vertical with canter poles on either side. We didn’t do too much because the footing was less that ideal, but at least we got a ride in.
And some really good news–Eli’s face is no longer filled with gauze and the wound is closing over. I have to wonder if his new-found slightly calmer than usual demeanor is a result of no longer having a toothache and raging sinus infection. Truly, how can any creature mentally process things appropriately with a bad headache? This is not to say that he has gone from bug-eyed to mellow–his personality is still a cantankerous one and he does not lack for energy under saddle. But I really thought he’d go berserk at a loose horse and he didn’t, and I really thought he’d be more of a handful in the indoor and he wasn’t. Dear pony, please keep surprising me like this.
Of course Thursday was also Thanksgiving and I have eaten SO MANY CARBS. Yummy, yummy carbs. All the carbs ever. But also beef tenderloin and green beans. We had a small family Thanksgiving, and a few years ago we collectively decided we’d all rather eat beef tenderloin instead of turkey, so we’ve been having that for Thanksgiving. And Conrad even gets a very little bit of it.