Yesterday I was up even earlier than usual to finish an essay for a writing contest a friend encouraged me to enter. If I win, Paul Taylor's, here I come and I'm walking out with a fine new saddle! That finished and e-mailed off, I hung around the house until about 11am or so, doing as few chores as I felt I could get away with before heading north to Heather's. I kept stalling at the door, feeling as if I were forgetting something, since almost all my gear is up there. I felt so empty handed!
Heather, Nita and I are always recycling/exchanging tack. I have an over-the-door rack in the laundry room that had become a tangled mass of halters, headstalls, reins, lead ropes, etc. several layers deep. The top and most often used stuff is already up there. Heather had suggested I might need still more stopping power with Pokey, and that I bring the rest of the bits and headstalls so we could experiment.
One item buried at the very bottom of one of the hooks served as a reminder of how far Poco has come: the stud chain I used to have to use on him. When his former owner's job caused him to have no time to spend with Poco (nee Cappuccino), care and feeding duties were relegated to his wife and kids. Bossy, pushy Pokey, 150-200 lbs. heavier than he is now, walked all over them, figuratively speaking. If he ever had manners, he had most certainly forgotten them, and added some bad habits and appytude to an already unsafe repertoire of tricks. That's the horse this naive newbie brought home. I bought the stud chain within the first 2 weeks, and it was obvious he knew exactly what it was, because from the second I put it on, he had total respect for it, before I ever had to yank him up. I used it for several months, until I felt confident he wasn't going to pull some boneheaded move like trying to toss me around like a nerf ball. I gave it to Heather for O (Sugarbush Harley's Classic O), the harlequin draft stallion standing at her place, who had busted one two days earlier.
Sure enough, when I got there and showed Heather what I had brought, she grabbed one of the bits to use on Cayenne, a green broke QH filly. In turn, she gave me a different, slightly more severe bit from her own tangled mass of headstalls to try on Poco. Dang it, I can't remember what it's called. Heather tacked up Cayenne, Nita rode Diesel (nee Stevie, OTTB), and Jim saddled his favorite mount, a QH gelding called Doodles. The plan was, we would play "ponies on parade," a simple workout for everyone. For Cayenne, this was to be a lesson in basics. For Poco, it was a lesson in how we act around girls.
As we all know, plans sometimes don't execute as well as we'd like, and this was one of those cases. Cayenne had a bad case of the I-don't want-to's, which turned into a bad case of the stupids. Heather wisely made the decision to make this a ground lesson, and got out the driving reins, staying at the near end of the arena. Diesel had been worked hard the previous day and just didn't seem up to the workout, while Doodles was a little too fresh and rarin' to go for Jim. Jim and Nita decided to trade horses, then tack, so they were up at the barn dinking around with all that for quite awhile. Meanwhile the lesson with Cayenne had deteriorated, so Heather ended on a win and called it good. I was glad, because every time Poco saw Cayenne act up, I could feel him react, like maybe he thought that was a fun idea he'd like to try. I was grateful for the new bit.
For awhile, Pokey and I had the whole arena to do as we wished. Heather was too far away to shout instructions, so we were on our own. We did a lot of trotting, with me trying to hold him back to a nice posting rhythm, rather than rushing into that stage of trot just shy of a lope. Again, the new bit really helped, and I was able to ride with a lot less contact. I was trying to do as little head reining as I could, and was actually able to negotiate some turns with just leg and rein cues. I think at some point, I'm going to want to take a few western lessons. I get the concept, but lack finesse. In other words, we're doing it, sort of, but it ain't pretty. But I have no reason to complain and every reason to crow, because one more time, that little horse worked his heinie off for me. Sure, I got some 'tude -- that's just my horse. Wouldn't be my Pokey if I didn't get a little 'tude! We've come a very long way from that fat, crazy, unpredictable beast at the end of that stud chain. I am so proud of him, it brings tears to my eyes.
Jim, who had knee surgery recently, decided he'd had enough, but Nita eventually joined us on Doodles, and we played follow the leader. Like Diesel, I think Pokey was feeling the two days of hard work in the hot, humid temps -- mid 90s with 94% humidity by noon -- so we cut the lesson a tad short. He got hosed down and drank a bucket of weak Gatorade, then got put back with his buddies, Jaz and Quaker. If I get back up there again over this long weekend, I'll either ride Jaz or one of Heather's horses, and let Pokey rest. I think he's earned a few days off.