Just when you’re going strong and becoming really confident in your abilities, reality turns around and slaps you across the face for kicks. Reality slapped me today when I was lunging Smudge. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.
I worked with Skippy for a few hours this morning. I desensitized him to the whip and loud noises and made him stand still while I was swinging my jacket around. He got to the point where he would spook and lift his head up, but he stood still. I feel like that’s a great improvement from jumping back at the slightest movement. I made Aine jump and scream around the arena for a little while, both near Skippy’s head and toward his hindquarters. Skippy did really well and stopped moving away from her when I told him to “stand”. He still gets spooked but he’s managing better under pressure. I need to do a repeat of these exercises tomorrow to get them to stick.
Smudge gave me a reality check. I had relaxed my vigilance around him because he did so well on the line the last time I handled him. However, he had been in the stable for a few days and was rearing to go. I put a bridle and saddle on him before taking him out on the lunge line. Right after we got into the arena I grabbed the whip and asked him to start walking. He didn’t want any of that. Suddenly he made a break for the side of the arena and the lunge line slipped through my fingers. I dropped the whip, grabbed the line with both hands, and dug in my heels while yelling obscenities at him. He slowed down for a minute, and then dodged again and took off. This time he jumped to a canter so I had to let go of the line to keep from being dragged on behind him. We had bisected the arena earlier with wooden beams stacked on top of barrels to make a makeshift round pen, but he smashed through the beams and broke into the rest of the arena, bucking like a bronco the entire time. I backed off and said “woah” at him in a long, soothing tone. He bucked a little bit more before slowing down and moving to a corner. I followed him, calling his name and speaking in soothing tones, but he squeezed past me suddenly and went to bucking again. At this point I turned around and called for Teddy, the big Irishman. Teddy came in and helped me catch Smudge. We brought him back to the other side of the arena and put the beam back up, but when I began lunging Smudge again he pulled against me and tried to drag me off. Teddy took the reins and gave me the whip. With Teddy on the other end of the line, Smudge couldn’t run off. We tried to get him to trot in a circle that way, but Smudge still kept stopping and turning his hind quarters to me to try and kick me. Whenever he did that I wailed on him and told him to get his ass away from me. Teddy found that hilarious. He told me I was spunky.
Aoife heard the commotion and came outside to investigate. Now, I recently learned that Aoife has traveled all over the world showing horses. She was a stable hand for a few good companies back in her early twenties before she became a trainer. She’s also bred a few show winning stallions. This woman has some crazy awesome stories about everywhere from Milan, Italy to Tennessee. Anyway, she marched into the arena and took over, and suddenly Smudge was the easiest, sweetest pony in the world. She wound him down and gave him some directions to think about, and then turned him back over to me. After being subjected to Aoife, Smudge meekly listened to me and completed his routine.
Smudge wasn’t the only one who learned something. I got a good dose of humility. I knew I was lucky that I wasn’t hurt.
The rest of the day was really easy, though I went through lunch pretty shell-shocked. In the afternoon I took Murphy out and lunged him and he was very sweet, if a bit pushy. I made myself not be afraid and pushed back though. He behaved after that. Ciara and I took him off the line after a while of him doing well and let him jump over a barrier a few times.
When he was good and sweaty we took him in and bathed him. Ciara explained the certification system that Irish students have to go through to get out of “secondary school”. It’s like a broken down, complicated SAT type thing. The “certs” are what Irish universities and government jobs look at when evaluating a kid for entrance into their program/job/whatever. A lot of Irish students received their cert results in the last few days, so there’s been a ton of young people getting drunk and partying like crazy. The radio stations were talking about it.
Dinner consisted of roast beef, tons of mashed potatoes, and broccoli and carrots. The weather is cool and perfect for that sort of thing. I was in heaven. I praised Aoife’s cooking endlessly. She joked that they might keep me working here for a year and paying me in food. I told her I might just go for it.