Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Theo's been so good.  So dang good.  Trainer A is in love.  She got some true mediums out of him in his last training ride.  This video is us at the end of our last lesson and he felt like a million bucks.  He was taking the contact, light off the leg, fantastic.  Valegro he ain't, but for me, this right here is what we've been working toward for almost three years.

Look at his tail swing.  He was so happy to get in the ring and work.  He wanted to lengthen so badly and we did a lot of passes across the diagonal with a lengthen.  And that's his left lead canter picked up so willingly.  I love the fact that he is so happy to stretch for me now.

And then he bucked his new adult w/t/c rider off the next day.  Theo.  Theo, noooooo.  We need her to give me days off!  And to feed you cookies and give you light days where you can flop around without a frame or real impulsion!  But spring is upon us and he had a brain fart when the lesson started a group canter.  Two bucks, one crow hop, and she was off.  No injuries, thank goodness, and she isn't giving up on him.  He's just too damn good 99% of the time to give him up.

Story of my life. 

But bucking people off and getting studish isn't cool so he's getting his work upped.  This has been rough for me since the hubby is travelling for work this week and I'm handling the house, the dogs, and the chickens as an army of one.  And then running and commuting to work.  Making sure I work Theo 4 times a week is rough right now, but I'm enjoying seeing him so much.  He whickers and trots up to his gate when I call his name.  Who needs sleep when you have adorable whickers?  There's a theory that he missed me and he figured that if he dumped his other rider, I'd visit him more.

On Monday we had a ground session.  We worked on basics like staying out of my space and that cues are not suggestions, they're orders.  I also figured out what I should work on for the foreseeable future:  Focus.  Theo needs to focus even when the world gets hard, such as things moving outside the arena door.  He gave me a buck and scoot on the lunge but with side reins, he couldn't get out of work.  It took only two rounds of scooting for him to realize it wasn't going to get him anywhere.  I corrected him when he was coming in too close and he bronced in response.  I corrected him sharply, then repeated the cue to move out.  He considered throwing a fit, then worked through it with one ear on me.  I gave him a complete release, including a cookie.  That.  That right there, Theo.  Accept my feedback and keep working.

When he spooked at something outside the door, I gave him a verbal command and he responded promptly.  That got him a reward.  The lightbulb went off.  When he'd start to spook, I'd move and his ear and eye would focus on me.  That got him a verbal reward and he started to chew.  We worked very hard on him promptly responding to verbal cues regardless of what else is going on.  He was chewing like crazy, visibly thinking, and the impression was made.  Scoot and bronc is not cool.  Cookies come with putting an ear and an eye on the human.  It's something we do with dogs that are going into competitive obedience.  Eyes up is rewarded.  I can do the same for Theo if he puts an ear on me.

Today I swung on with no lunging and got to work on the same lesson.  He was a little sore after being an idiot on Saturday and giving me some havoc on the lunge on Monday.  But even with two appy ponies working the canter and a beginner on the lunge, he kept an ear on me.  If he started to brace and get above the bit so he could act up, I'd give him a cue and his ears would swing back to me.  Reward, reward, reward.  I think this is what I really need to survive the show season.  He will spook.  He will want to bronc.  He will try to spin for home.  It's what he is.  But if we have it set in stone that a verbal cue overrides his freak out, we'll be okay.  If he stretches for the bit, puts an ear on me, and refocuses, that is a win beyond measure.  He didn't spook at all with me today.  When he tried to get big and look out the door, I said shoulder in and he said 'okay'.  I felt his back relax and let me connect rather than his old response of locking me out.

So now I know what we're working on.  Theo has to focus.  Screw what level test we're working on, this is a bit more critical.  When the world is terrifying, if I tell him to come back and focus, he needs to do it.  I will let him out of the frame, I will let him stretch and look later, I won't keep him in there forever, but when I say focus he needs to do it.  It's a trust exercise.  He has to trust me that if I say focus, that he can ignore whatever is going on. 

I'll admit, he's gotten a lot of cookies over the past two days.  This is a hard lesson for him and I can't be rough about it.  I've purposely put him in a heightened state, then worked him.  Getting rough will get me launched.  Cookies?  Cookies always work.

It's good that I'm back to riding so much.  And I genuinely think Theo missed me.  I don't think his other riders know how to scritch his ears the way I do.  I'm certainly getting the whickers and cuddles.  He's such a funny dude.  He does a good job of scaring people off with his facial expressions and open mouth, but what he really wants is a serious ear scritch and to get his neck curried for an hour.  Per side.  He's shedding and very itchy.  I suspect a plot to get me out to the barn more often.  I guess I should be flattered that he went through so much work to get me out for more visits.

He's so lucky he's cute.  These long days are a killer.  But I got my promotion to lead data scientist so I think a new browband is in order.  Since I have three saddles and really don't need any more.


  1. What a great idea about the ears! I'm glad that he's doing so well (well except for the bucking). :)

  2. Bad Theo! It's probably just the spring starting to sink into their bones making them lose a bit of their former sanity!