Here’s Eragon as a 5 year old. He’s gone through a ton of physical changes that have made training challenging at times, but he is growing up to be a lovely horse. He’s getting a lot stronger, too, and learning how to use his loooong back legs! The “video” link on the right includes a recent workout.
Right now, Eragon is on a training hiatus until (if I can control myself) 1/1/12. He had a mysteriously stocked up back leg and while he wasn’t lame, the coming-and-going nature of the swelling worried me, so I gave him a week off. The leg looks fine now, but then I got to thinking: the holiday is coming up. Work is crazy. I’m going to be out of town for part of the month. Maybe this would be a good time to give Eragon a breather? He’s in a big growth spurt right now. His mental abilities are way above what his gangly, growing body can handle right now, so training is sort of stalled anyway. A month off to just be a horse might be a good thing.
I’ve still been going out to the barn, though, and Eragon exhibited some behavior the other day that surprised me. I’ve always thought Eragon was unusually smart–and I don’t think its just because he’s my special little pony friend. It’s because he does things that I’ve never observed another horse doing. For instance, he seemed to understand my pointed finger the other day. This doesn’t sound big, but according to experts, only dogs can understand pointing. From the article:
Understanding a pointed finger may seem easy, but consider this: while humans and canines can do it naturally, no other known species in the animal kingdom can. Consider too all the mental work that goes into figuring out what a pointed finger means: paying close attention to a person, recognizing that a gesture reflects a thought, that another animal can even have a thought
I like this recent workout He’s getting much more free and open in front, and his canter is also improving. Plus, he looks so elegant! Ignore the little argument with the camera man :).
Eragon is doing great. Here are some recent pics, and there’s a few recent videos posted at the link to the right. I shouldn’t be jumping in a dressage saddle, but Eragon handled it like a pro. I think he likes jumping.
Well, pointless post here. But I just have to say– I love this horse! I just had 5 hours of work-related meetings and then came out to the barn. I was exhausted, but Eragon makes all efforts to come ride 100% worth it. He is such a great partner–willing, smart, composed, professional, fun, sweet…I could go on and on.
We’ve been together a year now and I am just so happy. I honestly never thought I would enjoy working with a horse as much as I loved working with Fancy. And while I still miss Fancy every day, and will miss him until the day I die, I am so glad to have found a partner in Eragon.
What’s interesting is that Eragon shares a lot of positive qualities with Fancy. He’s smart. He’s confident. He will take direction from his rider, but he is also okay with making his own decisions. He’s brave. He’s self-possessed. He’s balanced and knows where he is in space. In short, he gives the rider a great feel. One thing I miss about Fancy and thought I’d never find again is that sense of identity that he had. When you worked around Fancy, you really felt his “horsehood,” that is, his identity and force of personality. That’s what made him such a thrilling partner–he had such a strong identity and such inward confidence. While this made him difficult at times, it was ultimately a great strength, since he was able to take over and make smart decisions (particularly on the jump course) if I got nervous or made a rider error. We were true collaborators–you could not boss Fancy into doing anything. You could convince and finesse him, but never control him.
While Eragon is more “zen” than Fancy, he has a strong identity, too. You really get the sense that you are working with a distinct personality and consciousness when you work with Eragon. He is always willing to listen to me, but he also has his own clear contributions to the dialogue. It is a comfort to work with an animal who has such an obvious sense of self. I really feel like lightening has struck twice for me. I owned the most beautiful, generous, funny, and lovely horse for 15 years. That was an amazing bit a of fortune and would have been enough for one lifetime. But, amazingly, I now have another special horse. I feel so lucky.
But damn, I still miss Fancy. Everyday. I think I’ll use the next few blog posts here to talk about what I learned from that amazing animal. I owe so much of who am I as a person and rider to that horse.
Or does my Welsh pony have a Celtic cross on his head??
Eragon and I have had several tests of our partnership in the last few weeks. We’ve started training outside, I’ve taken him for short jaunts around the property, and we’ve had our first little argument. We’ve also had our first show! Let’s start with the argument, though.
So Eragon has basically been a perfect angel since I started riding him in November. He is focused under saddle, likes learning new things, works hard, and doesn’t melt down when I put pressure on him. He has been naughty on the ground, but undersaddle he’s been absolutely consistent and a total doll. But, he just turned four. Trainers and other experienced horse folks tell me this is the age when baby horses might start “challenging” their rider. I got to experience one of these “challenges” last week.
We’ve been working on asking Eragon to move in a more uphill frame with more lightness in front. Kate, one of my instructors, has put a few rides on Eragon (mostly because I can only be at the barn 4 days and I’d like another ride on him to make a 5 day work week) and she’s been asking for this more active carriage here and there, and so have I. We both make sure he gets plenty of stretch breaks, but this work is difficult for him, both mentally and physically. Last week, I rode for about 45 minutes inside. It was a productive ride with some tough work. We then went out to the open field. I asked for a tiny bit of trot work (since I wanted to practice riding in the open when he was a bit tired, to make it safer) and he melted down. He decided he was done. He went sideways backed up, reared, bucked in place, every time I asked him to trot up this tiny hill. I brought him down to the walk. I didn’t want to put him away (since that would teach him fits=I get to quit) but I was intimidated by his behavior. Luckily, Kate was around and she was nice enough to coach us through the behavior. I’m glad we both got through our little argument and ended on a positive note. Beyond that, I took Eragon’s behavior seriously. He was communicating with me. Yes, it was naughty that he was behaving that way. But it was probably also true that I worked him a bit too long/hard that day. So I’ve learned to pay better attention to his physical AND mental energy. Eragon puts a lot of mental energy in his work. I think his brain tires faster than his body, so I’m going to be more sensitive and not throw too much at him in a single session. It’s easy to forget he’s only 4 when he normally acts so mature. I think Eragon also learned that dangerous behavior will get him nowhere. We both learned lessons that will only strengthen the partnership, I think.
Now, onto the good stuff. Last weekend, we went to our first show! I’ve never ridden Eragon off the property, so I was pretty nervous. We were entered in Intro tests A & B at a dressage schooling show. The first warmup was a bit dicey, since I was nervous and had trouble riding as well as I do at home (our steering went out a few times and sent him diving for the gate). But, he marched into the dressage ring without batting an eye at anything. We scored a 52% on that test, mostly because I was so tense and he jigged through the walk work.
When we entered the ring for our second test, I knew the minute we went down the centerline that Eragon and I were clicking again. He marched in that ring like he owned the place and laid down an awesome test, full of 7’s for his trotwork, his freewalk, his gaits in the collective marks, etc. We scored a very respectable 65% with “Nice test!” written in the comments and took second place. I was so thrilled. It only took one time around the ring for Eragon (and me) to be “on.” He was so poised and serious–the pictures tell the story. I couldn’t be prouder. Now, on to fix those “6’s” I got for rider position…