Longshot was born in September 2010, and he had a contracted tendon (see last week’s post, The Longshot Update for more info.)
He recovered and went home.
Then I got a yearling (Lacey), so Longshot came to live at my house to keep her company.
Then they turned two and I got another one (LT), and the three of them went to summer camp (See The Three Amigos).
Then Longshot went home for the winter (Lacey had LT for company–plus I got Toots, who is just one year older…do we sense an ominous (for the bank account) horse accumulation trend??–LT and Toots are prospects–for sale–really! Just make me an offer (a really big offer!)
And now, enough of the back story; we will get back to the real story: Longshot is back, and I am getting on his back, and his back is not up against the wall.
I started and showed his full sister Squirt and his half brother Tabooli (same mom). I did a tune up on his cousin Fancy and a tune up on his half sister Cinco (same dad), so I am familiar with the blood line. Plus, I am familiar with Longshot himself since he has spent a lot of time living here.
I figured Longshot’d be a drama-less start.
Since mid May, we have one day of ground work and he has been under saddle 19 times.
Longshot is not the super sensitive type and he has a bigger “not doing THAT” (i.e. stubborn streak) than any of his relatives. But he rarely bucks, even when he plays.
If he is stressed, he simply quits moving. This can make him somewhat frustrating to train, but it means he is unlikely to come apart.
He will spook at things that appear strange, but he has a very short flight distance–he won’t go far.
He likes the company of the other horses (unlike Toots who is more of a loner), which does mean there can be buddying up/ herd bound issues especially when he is in unfamiliar territory.
So, that first day, I tossed a saddle on him and he flinched a little, but not much.
He worked in the round pen with a drag rope, some tarps, a butt rope etc. The usual array of objects I like a horse to try out before I try them out from on top.
I do not want them careening around the place in a panic with all that stuff flapping, so I keep them on a line until I an reasonably sure they can manage.
Longshot really did not care.
I messed with the stirrups, stood in them and since he didn’t raise his head, swish his tail, or move his feet and then he closed his eyes (I swear he’s narcoleptic!) by day two I got on.
Moving? Who needs to move? But then he did kind of amble around.
Here are my notes from day three–Ride two :
“Ride 2-well he is not in a hurry about anything although he will go. We already know he doesn’t startle at much–but that also means he doesn’t respond too much! He walked and trotted with me on him. His ground work was markedly better than the 10th. He seems to need a soak-in period to process what I want. I used reins today and he was of course clueless, but I did get walk, trot, back, whoa, some turning, move the butt and decent sideways. Most of it was pretty kindergarten, but hey that is a lot for ride 2–and absolutely no drama in his body–well except he argued with his face because he did not know what I wanted…”
By ride four we were in the arena and he showed a little life by spooking at the arena drag, and he was moving his parts enough to open (but not shut) a rope gate. And he could trot. And steer–sort of. And stop. All of it a bit begrudgingly. Just think of the sound they do on TV when a person is on downer drugs and people’s voices are distorted, slow and deep. I have no idea how to put letters together for that sound. But trying to convince Longshot to move any part freely was an effort.
Truthfully, I was a little depressed about this and I kept comparing him to Squirt who was super laid back but eager to try new things. That comparison thing is bad! It only gets in the way of seeing what is right for the horse under you.
But take the bridge for example. On day five, I figured we’d try the bridge. I mean SQUIRT loped on ride three, opened and shut a gate on ride four and went over the bridge like it was not even there.
(Hello? To self! We already know that Longshot is not Squirt…)
But being the optimist (or just as stubborn as Longshot), we went for the bridge. And, yep we went over the bridge. Never sweetly, but at least he showed SOME try.
On ride 10, we had a turning point. I put a cavesson on him (you can see it in the picture) to entice him to keep his mouth shut when pressure is applied to the bit and was using a training fork just to keep him from putting his nose in the sky. We went to the round pen to see if loping was in his future.
We did some warm up. It was ok until I asked him to move his shoulder to the left. Nope, not doing it.
We got in a fight.
I fought dirty.
I used my spurs.
And, huh. His attitude became a whole lot more compliant.
So, we loped. Very nice.
Then my erstwhile (is that the right word? erstwhile?) cow partner, otherwise known as Fancy’s Dad or Seasoned Hunting Friend #2, asked if I wanted to go to the Brazos Box Ranch.
How many horses can I bring??? (ok, so I get demerits for rudeness!)
Well then, it had to be Longshot.
Why on Earth would I take a horse with 12 rides ever in his whole life to the ranch to ride?
Because it would work. And Squirt’s dad took HER to the back country on 20 rides by me and only one ride by him. Not that I’m preparing to compare.
Ride 13, at the ranch. I went out alone towards dusk.
Well, no one else wanted to go and he’d been there over night and had done nothing all day while we set up fence.
He was a little squirrely leaving his pen mate, Squirt, but as soon as he got over the hill, he was fine.
Until we got to the stream. He was alarmed by the whole idea of a stream. Why would that water MOVE like that?
Ok, so first we walked along it (crabwise, as maybe it was going to rise up out of the bed and suck us in), but then the trail went across, so I got off, he snacked on some grass, he put his foot in and followed me over, just like that.
And then he rushed up the bank. Whereupon my rein broke.
Seriously? Ugh. I knew there was an issue with that rein and I had failed to fix it at home. Oh well. Tied it in a knot to the bit and got back on.
Rode down farther and traipsed across a few more streams. La de da.
Fixed my rein back at the cabin. Baling twine is useful.
The next day, we headed out to check a fence job.
We crossed more water.
He wore saddle bags for the first time.
We saw an elk calf! So new that its instincts were to freeze in place.
We went cross country over a lot of dead fall (and he stepped over everything, Ho Hum), through a bog, and up a very steep rocky ridge.
Except for getting tired on the steep hill and complaining that his muscles hurt and he should not be required to move his legs any more, no obstacle was an issue. He was extremely sure footed.
Nice view from the top!
My only complaint is that Longshot is a VERY slow walker. He has a slow jog, too–nice if he were destined for a western pleasure show future, but (hopefully, for us once and will be again cow punchers) his future may be ranch work.
We rode the next (and last) day at the walk, trot and lope on the trail, and since he did water the first ride at the ranch, saddle bags and varied and challenging terrain the second day, for his third day learning experience: Hobbles.
After the ride, I put them on, stepped back, and he began to eat. Ho Hum.
When he went to move, he carefully placed one foot and then the other. Ho Hum.
He took to that better than Squirt. (Not that I am comparing!)
Thinking old Longshot is gonna make a horse.