Sometimes when I think about Miles, I see things in columns. Pros versus Cons, What I Got versus What I Wanted, Things I Compromised On versus Pleasant Surprises. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but one thing has been really on the forefront of my mind lately. Miles is a grumpy horse, which I knew when I bought him… but he’s much more grumpy than I originally anticipated. It can be a really frustrating quality sometimes, but instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong, I’d rather figure out what I can actively do to make things better.
My inspiration, who I’m looking up to for assistance in this process are two people who are really quite the opposite. One is my trainer, who you’d obviously suspect would have some great advice. She called Miles ‘ring sour’ the other day, and for some reason that really shocked me. I don’t know why, but I’ve never quite thought of Miles in those exact terms. I’ve called him grumpy, and lazy, but never ring sour. Which is odd… because he most certainly is the very definition of ring sour. He’s not so bad that he won’t go into the ring, or work in a ring at all. But he definitely gets sick of working on the same things in the same place all the time. Trainer’s advice was three-fold: (1) change it up and keep the exercises interesting so you’re never working on the same thing over and over with the same exercise, (2) give him ‘fun’ days so that every ride isn’t hard work and (3) get out of the ring.
My second inspiration is one of the juniors I ride with. Her horse can have a grumpy attitude too, and while it’s not as bad as Miles, he can get pretty… pissy… about going forward. I don’t notice it as much because she does a lot of things that my trainer has suggested to get him out of this mood. She toodles sometimes, and does silly stuff with him (like pole bending and carrot races and… whatever she wants to), and she takes him out on the trails a lot. So basically, I kind of need to embrace my inner pre-teen.
With that in mind, last week we got caught in the indoor arena during a rain storm, so to cool out I stripped my tack, hopped on bareback and let Miles walk around wherever he wanted to go. I think he kind of enjoyed it, and I did too. The next ride I did, I never set foot in an arena. We walked around the pastures and the barns, down the big hill and out into the jump field (across a new to us BIG ditch, with water). We mostly walked, with a little bit of trotting, but it really seemed to improve Miles’s mood. I started with a pretty grumpy horse (it was quite hot out), and ended with a happier horse.
And this is one of the Pros of Miles — one of his Pleasant Surprises. He hacks out alone, quiet as can be. He doesn’t spook on the trails, or get silly. He doesn’t even really get “up” at all. He gets a little hesitant about deep mud, standing water, and ditches, but all the work I’ve done getting him out this spring has paid off and now we are both confident enough to get out on our own and tackle some of these questions. So for all that Miles might have some faults and things that drive me crazy, I got pretty damn lucky in the trail riding department.