“No jump-cup! No!”

I find myself saying this a lot to Eragon lately.   Like lots of young horses, Eragon is mouthy–he loves to grab objects, chew on ropes etc.  Unlike other horses, Eragon has a real eye for detail and selects objects to grab with great care.  For instance:

1. Every time I pull Eragon out of the pasture wearing my winter coat, he pulls a very small elastic drawstring in the hood area of the coat.  He delicately grabs it in his teeth, pulls it until taut, and then lets it snap back on me.  How he sees/finds this small piece of the coat is a mystery.  What’s interesting is that he specifically remembers and looks for this piece every time I wear that coat.

2.Eragon likes to spin things.  He will grab the small lash of the dressage whip and flip the whip around in a circle.   He’s also done this with my camera case.  He’s even lifted a muck bucket out of a muck bucket cart (by the rope handles!)and attempted to flip it around.

But his latest obsession is jump cups.  It all started one day when I was walking him into the indoor.  There’s a hallway filled with unused jump stuff on our way, including a bucket of jump cups.  One day, he reached into the bucket and pulled out a jump cup by the string.  You can see where this is going.  The minute he realized his prize, he began to spin the jump cup in a large circle.   The pin was flying in the air, as was the heavy metal cup.  “Eragon!”  I yelled, but I couldn’t exactly yank it from him since it was spinning between us and likely to take my eye out.  I ended up walking into the arena before wrestling it away from him.

The obsession didn’t end there, though.  This week, he’s learned a new way to get  a hold of jump cups.  I usually let Eragon loose for a roll after a ride in the indoor.  There are typically  a few jumps up and poles scattered around.  Eragon soon learned that he could pull the jump cups off the standards by pulling the string!  I found it impressive/strange that he’s able to get the jump cup off the standard, since he needs to pull the pin out.  How did he know to do it?  Did he recognize that the object on the standard was the same he pulled from the bucket days earlier?  Or did he just try pulling on a string both times?  It’s probably the later, but the extreme smoothness and dexterity he used when pulling the cup from the standard made it seem, at least to me, that he remembered the object and how it can be manipulated.   Genius…or mere coincidence?

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Eragon: How He Rolls Part 1

Well, I’ve been pretty bad about posting about Eragon, but that’s about to change.  I want to remember all the training moments and funny things he does, so here’s my update.

Since my last post, I had a few good rides.  Then he came up lame, quite lame.  I panicked, dropped major $$$ on a vet farm call what was likely a simple stone bruise that resolved itself within a week.  Whew!  Just to be safe, I gave him another week of light groundwork before getting back in the saddle this week.  True to his solid mind, Eragon was just fine after not being ridden for almost two weeks.  He was even fine with another fresh horse being lunged in the area while he worked–good boy!  However, some of his other behavior over the last two weeks has been less-then-stellar.  I’m learning that despite his sweet pony looks and general steadiness under saddle (especially for being sooo green), Eragon has another side.  An edge you might say.

Example 1:

When Eragon was off work, he started to get really antsy on the ground.  Obviously, the lack of work was starting to blow his brain.  In the cross ties, he’d dance, and he’d sometimes try to nip or frisk when being led.  No biggie, in general.  But then one night, as I was walking him out to the pasture, he pulled some crazy moves.  On the way out to his pasture, there’s a wooden pallet where hay is stored before it is tossed over the pasture fence.  Eragon is very food obsessed, so it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had jerked the lead to get to the pile.  But, that’s not what he did.  Oh, no.  As we walked past the pile, I felt a tug on the lead.  I turned around to ask him to walk forward.  He rolled his eyes at me and reared.  When he came back down, he reared again, backing up while he was rearing.  He backed up all the way to the pile, rearing every time I hit the lead.  Eventually, he got into the pile, and continued to do the following:
1.Dance in the hay.
2.Grab a huge mouthful of hay.
3.Rear straight up, with the hay in his mouth, and PAW THE AIR like a wild stallion.
Now, I was so shocked by this behavior that I wasn’t very effective at stopping him.  I was also frankly in awe of him because:
1.He was backing up on his hind legs and perfectly positioning himself in the hay.  There was a hotwire topped fence, a small ditch, the pallet,  and other obstacles nearby, but in all his rearing, he was VERY careful and in control of where he put his feet.  No panic here–the whole thing was very calm and controlled on his part.
2. His rearing itself.  This was no pop off the front legs.  This horse was straight up VERTICAL.
3.The pawing the air part.  To me, this was an extra and hilarious flourish.  I mean, the rearing alone would have been enough.  The wild-stallion pawing , coupled with the giant flake of hay hanging from the mouth was both comical and impressive.

He tried it again a few days later, but this time I was ready.  I kept shanking the lead and yelling.  For some reason, yelling at Eragon gets his attention more than any physical punishment.  He seems to be very sensitive to the voice.  However, the whole incident, naughty as it was, actually showed aspects of Eragon’s personality that just makes me love him more.  First, his behavior, while disobedient to say the least, showed how smart he is.  The fact that he was able to control his body so well and keep track of his feet solidifies his intelligence.  Secondly, the whole nature of the disobedience shows a confident, domineering horse with a flair for drama.  The extreme vertical rear coupled with the very controlled and lovely air-pawing displays Eragon’s fire and spice.   A born performer, I think.

Stay tuned for Part 2.