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post #1 of 31 Old 11-30-2018, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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Me + Three

Iíve been posting a lot on this forum, and Iíve decided itís time for a little introduction. I also want to use this as an actual journal, to track what Iíve been doing with my horses. Advance warning: itís not going to have the exciting cliffhangers or emotional pull that a lot of peopleís journals do.

First, for the journal part. I had two really tough lessons on Wednesday and Thursday, so although I had a lesson scheduled for today I just went out early and rode my pony bareback in the pasture. The way the pasture where he lives is set up is like a giant, 40-acre ďLĒ with the barn and arenas at the top. The last time I rode him out there was several months ago, because itís been so rainy that the pastures were all a big bog and I didnít think it was right to ask him to carry me in those conditions. I had been working on riding him down the short side of the ďLĒ to the corner. He has been a little hesitant about me riding him out there by myself, so we had been getting a little closer to that corner each time (yes, they were very short rides).

Today, however, he seemed really willing, so we went out to the corner, past the corner, turned, and rode all of the short sides of the L. Then I rode him up the hill and along the back property line. That area, from the fence and about 10 feet in, is clear, but thereís a wooded area between it and the main pasture, and although Iíve found him back there by himself in the past, he was a little hesitant to go with me on him, and he kept trying to turn back. I told him Iíd let him turn back down the big hill. When we got about halfway up that hill I asked for a trot but, schockingly, got a canter (one of my ponyís nicknames is pokey pony, so him moving faster than wanted is almost unheard of). It was amazing, if short lived (he took about 10 strides and then stopped like, ďwhoa, why was I running?Ē) So now I can say Iíve cantered bareback. I gave him his head down the steep and rocky hill to get back to the main pasture, then we walked and trotted back. I was super happy with him.

Then I pulled my daughterís mare out of the pasture, walked her to a stall, fed her, picked off and treated her rain rot, then took her back to the pasture. Iím working on leading her without a halter, and she did all of this without a halter, staying with me except when she veered off to get some water. Sheís a very smart horse who learns really quickly, unlike some ponies I could mention. Of course I gave her a cookie once we got out to the pasture.

Finally, I got the new guy out. Iíve only been working with him for a month, so I donít expect him to follow me without a halter. I do have him walking to me in the pasture to be haltered, so thatís a start. He had apparently been progressively worse with the farrier, to the point of rearing and kicking the last time he was seen, so when I held him yesterday and he was really good, just making a worried face a couple of times but coming back to me when I asked, I told him that today I would just pull him and feed him and put him back.

BUT when the barn owner saw his wound (he had apparently been kicked in the pasture, and the wound was developing proud flesh), she told me to treat it again (I already treated it the last two days), and then I showed her another wound and she wanted me to treat that also. I had to pick off the scabs, wash, and apply ďWonder Dust.Ē He didnít like it, but he was pretty good about it. Then I took him back to the pasture and stood there with him for a few minutes and took off his halter and gave him a cookie. I decided to smell him.

When I first started working with him I smelled him to see what I thought (yes, Iím weird like that) and he didnít really have a smell. Now he has a nice smell! So then since I was already there I decided to hug him (I hadnít tried that with him yet because Iím trying to take things really slowly as he is an anxious, worried horse). Not only did he tolerate it, he actually leaned into it! My daughter says he was just looking for more cookies, and maybe thatís true, but Iíll take what I can get.
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post #2 of 31 Old 11-30-2018, 06:44 PM
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Subbing! I can already tell that I'm going to love this journal!!
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post #3 of 31 Old 12-01-2018, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Now, to introduce myself a little. How did I go from just starting trail rides in February to owning two (now three) horses? Obviously, lack of common sense, poor planning ability, willingness to ignore the imperatives of my budget, and listening to my heart rather than my head all played a big part.

In February we were planning a family trip to Europe. One thing I wanted to do was some ďtrail ridingĒ in Scotland. All of the places I looked at, however, had pretty strict requirements about what level of experience was acceptable for which rides, and all of the rides that matched my level of experience (ďI rode horses for a while when I was a kidĒ) sounded really boring. So I decided to get some riding experience. Going by Yelp ratings, I picked a place that was in a small town about an hourís drive from us. The plan was to try a ride and if we liked it we (me, my husband, and our daughter) would ride weekly for the next couple of months in order to get our level of experience up.

Most trail riding places bill themselves as ďnot your average trail rideĒ and ďnot just nose to tail trail rides,Ē and yet Ö they are. But, this place (PM me if you want more info) really WAS that ďnot your average trail ridesĒ place. Even in our first ride, we were expected to control our horses ourselves. On the second ride, she had us breaking off and doing 20 meter circles, one after the other. Then doing the same thing trotting. All kinds of work where we really had to actually make the horses do something that they didnít necessarily want to do.

We soon added a second, weekday, lesson for my daughter and me. I found a pony that I really liked to ride. He was young, green, stubborn, and full of trouble (crow hopping, little rears, head tossing, biting and kicking the other horses while I was riding him, you name it), BUT on some rides the two of us totally meshed, and it seemed like I just had to THINK what I wanted and he would do it. Not to mention he was sweet and snuggly and smelled amazing. My daughter found a mare that she liked to ride. This mare was super on the ground, very respectful, and seemed pretty much bombproof, but she also really liked to go. When ridden, she required a firm hand.

Fast forward to mid-March, and this lady tells us sheís planning on selling both of these horses. At the time, I was completely ignorant about selling horses, and I thought that if she was selling them that must mean someone was willing to buy them. After a lot of thought, I figured that I could buy the pony and board him with her and keep riding him. Then my daughter was like, ďBut I love this horse, why can you buy one for you and not one for me?Ē Then the owner told us sheíd give me a discount if I bought both. I thought and thought about it, and prayed about it, and my daughter agreed to do extra chores in order to help for the horseís board, and then in April I told her yes. We finalized the sale in April, and I now owned two horses. So here I was, two months of trail rides separating me from total horse ignorance, the owner of two horses. Now all I had to do was actually LEARN about horses.

Last edited by ACinATX; 12-01-2018 at 05:51 PM.
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post #4 of 31 Old 12-02-2018, 12:40 AM
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Hmm...already seems to have some cliffhangers and emotional pull.
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post #5 of 31 Old 12-02-2018, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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AndÖ one step back

Because thatís how it is. Or maybe it isnít, for people who have really well-trained horses or are super awesome horsepeople who can cut out the behavior before it starts. Neither of those applies to me.

Went for my daughterís lesson today. Lesson pony had to be dragged out of the pasture. I decided to ride my pony out in the pasture again, but even before we got out the gate I could tell he was having a pony day. Lots of ďno no noĒ attitude. Then of course he wouldnít stand still at the mounting block. After I backed him up a few times he was OK. It probably didnít help that we passed his buddy (my daughterís horse) in the pasture and then left her behind. He kept wanting to turn around. There was lots of fighting! And making tiny circles! I was bareback again, and I learned that even with his level-one pony tricks I can stay on no problem. Which is good to know when and if he starts tossing out level-two pony tricks. He really, really, really didnít want to go back behind the forest again, so I decided to cut my losses and make him go somewhere else he didnít want to go, but didnít feel as strongly about (if that makes sense). So we went to the tree that is the outpost of the forest, did a circle around it, and came back. We trotted a little on the way back, and that was pretty good.

At my daughterís last lesson, her horse had been acting up, which is fairly out of character for her. I was informed today that she had also acted up when they put one of their better team riders on her. I asked the barn owner to check her back, which she did, and there didnít seem to be any problems. We know the saddle fits, and sheís just had her teeth floated. The barn owner wanted my daughter to hop on her in order to show her what to do when the horse is doing this (throwing her head up and to the side) so she did. The horse was fine except when asked to trot, then the attitude came back. So my daughter worked on that technique and then just rode her a lot at the walk. She rode her bareback with just the halter and lead rope tied like reins, so that was pretty cool.

I brought the new horse in to try saddles on him (Iím planning on riding him for the first time tomorrow). I was surprised that the saddle that actually seemed to fit him best was my ponyís saddle. They arenít too different size wise (pony is 14.2 hands exactly and this guy is maybe 14.3, and this guy is a broad-built quarter horse) but my pony has a broader back and no withers. But the saddle fit the new guy great with a wither relief pad. So maybe I wonít have to buy yet another new saddle! Also, the barn owner gave me his ďbridle.Ē Itís a decrepit old western-type hackmore thing. Of course he is way overdue for the vet (vet is coming next week) so she didnít want me riding him in a bit until he gets his teeth floated. He was a free horse, so I guess I shouldnít be surprised that heís overdue for everything. Also, Iím not complaining Ė heís a sweetheart and I enjoy spending time with him.

My pony likes to be in the middle of all the action, quite literally in this case! He was just standing there watching everyone running around him. Eventually they had to shoo him off, but luckily I got this picture first!
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post #6 of 31 Old 12-04-2018, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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I had my first ride on Teddy, the new horse. I spent the last month working with him on the ground, building trust and a relationship, and I think that was a really good idea! He has only been ridden once in the last three months, and the last time he was ridden before that he had some kind of breakdown. He seemed pretty nervous about the whole riding thing. I thought about it later, and it felt like he thought he was walking on icy patches, like he was super worried and didnít know what he was supposed to be doing, didnít know where to put his feet, didnít understand what I was asking. Part of that is probably that I was riding him in a weird hackamore-type thing instead of a normal bridle because his teeth need to be floated (the earliest the vet could come out is next week). BUTÖ. There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done! The way I wanted to approach riding him was to act like we are restarting him, so I only rode him for 15 minutes, until he seemed like he was doing a good job but maybe just starting to get a little extra worried, then hopped off and gave him a lot of praise.

I need to figure out the logistics of three horses. Iíve got both of my other two trained to come when called (usually LOL), follow me into the ďinsideĒ part of the facility, go to the stalls that Iíve indicated, and wait for me to feed them (and groom and tack up if Iím riding). I bring them both in each time, if they both want to come in (they usually do, since it means food), let them eat, and then take out whoever I donít want. Theyíve got the routine down pretty well, especially my daughterís mare. Iím afraid that adding a third horse to the mix is going to be difficult, and Iím not quite sure how to do it yet. Although Ö now that I think about it, it will certainly be easier bringing in three horses at a time if they donít need to be on lead ropes. If I could get just the new guy and my daughterís mare for a while, I think that would be easier since she is pretty level-headed, whereas my pony is super excitable and always just makes things worse.

For the ride yesterday, I was basically joining my daughterís private lesson, so we needed her horse and my new guy, but not my pony. So my plan was to hide in the barn and ask her to just go get her horse. If my pony sees me, itís pretty much over, because he will have to come in, but I wasnít sure we had time to do that today. She was successful, and then I was really happy to find my new guy at the gate just waiting for me! I donít know if itís just coincidence, but I have never seen him over there by himself just waiting Ė did he somehow know I was here? I didnít have my halter when I saw him over there, but I decided just to try to bring him in by asking him to follow me. To my surprise, he did great. I asked him to focus on my hand and made the sort of ďtch tchĒ noises you make to cue a horse to walk, and he followed right along. We went to my car, where I got his feed out, and he got a little excitable at that point and we had to slow down a little, but I got him into a grooming stall just fine. I led him out without the halter after my lesson, and he had a little harder time staying focused, but I did have some cookies with me so that helped.

When I got him back out in the pasture, my pony was there waiting. I was happy to see him, of course, but it was a little awkward. The two of them didnít seem to really know how to behave when they were together with me. They sort of touched noses a couple of times, but then I got worried it might escalate, so I stepped back but they both wanted to follow me. Iíll have to think about how I want to handle this.

Finally, after I had put all of my stuff away, I noticed that my pony was ďworkingĒ the gate, which is just closed with a looped chain. Sure enough, the gate popped open and he got out into the front area. I rounded him up and put him back and secured the chain more tightly. Then I had some questions to ask the trainer, and while we were finishing up I saw he had gotten the gate open again! She said that from her point of view she doesnít mind if heís out in the front, because he gets along fine with everyone, but the problem is he doesnít close the gate behind him and then all the others get out. They were already eying the gate, too. So we just left him out front but secured the gate with a halter. He only does this when he knows Iím there, which I guess is better than if he always did it. But the trainer thinks we may need to start using a latch on that gate permanently, which is unfortunate since just having it chained is a lot easier for everyone.

That night I emailed the barn owner and asked her to write up the contract Ė I will take him. Heís not perfect by far, but heís just so sweet and full of try that I feel like he deserves to be a one-person horse and have someone he can depend on. I canít believe nobody would pay for this horse.
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post #7 of 31 Old 12-05-2018, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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I will admit that I was somewhat trying to impress my husband and daughter when I told them each that I was going to be riding two horses in my lesson today. I mean, that requires some mental gymnastics and the ability to turn off one way of being and turn on another (these horses have very different needs and abilities). But my husband and daughter each said, separately, ďYou mean, like at the same time? With one foot on each one?Ē And took all the wind out of my sails.

When I got there, both guys were already out front. I guess naughty pony was still out from when he got out last time, but Iím not sure how the new guy (Teddy) got out. I feel kind of good that he was out there, though. First, it was a lot more convenient than having to go get him, and second before I got him he never wanted to come out front. Iím hoping that it means that heís starting to associate being up front with good things (like me!).

Last lesson, Teddy had had problems at the mounting block. He would line up fine, but once I got up he would turn his head toward me and thus turn his butt away from me and no longer be square. After a few ďnosĒ it seemed like he wasnít going to get it so I asked the instructor to hold him for me. I feel like because of his bad experiences, he needs a lot of easy wins and a lot of getting things right, so I didnít want to keep having him do it wrong. This time I brought cookies, broke it down into small steps, and rewarded him for each correct step. He got it no problem. Even after I got on, he just stood there. That was great. Iíll reinforce next time and then hopefully be done with that issue.

He was SO MUCH more relaxed this time. This was another great thing, for two reasons: (1) obviously we want him to be relaxed and (2) I could FEEL that he was more relaxed. I think Iíve got a good feel for horses on the ground Ė I can see the subtle shift of weight, the slight change in gaze, what the rest of the face / ears are telling me, etc. But I was just telling my instructor after our last ride that I donít think Iíve got a feel for these things in the saddle. So it was nice that I could tell. She agreed he was a LOT more relaxed but noted that he kept one eye on her the whole time. Not sure why Ė was he worried about her, was he waiting for her to cue him? Anyway, we had a great ride. We learned that he isnít too good at moving his hindquarters over (I had actually noticed this on the ground) so thatís something weíll be working on for our next ride. I can also work on this on the ground, when Iím grooming him and such. He was super willing and did what I wanted, even when he was obviously a little worried about it.

Next I rode ďno ponyĒ (that turns out to be his nickname for today). He was in fine form, rooting, tossing his head, refusing every single thing. I had to get the dressage whip out, but at least I only had to use it a couple of times. Then someone started welding in the trailer that was maybe 30 feet from the arena, and all of the horses that were out there started running around. Pony didnít seem to really mind the welding itself, but the other horses got him all worked up. I feel like Iím a decent enough rider now to sit this sort of stuff out, so rather than worrying about calming him I asked him to transfer all of this energy into actually moving forward in a nice way. No go. He decided that maybe he didnít care if everyone else was running around or not. But we decided to call it a day pretty soon anyway, because it was pretty distracting and we got him to do one thing well.

When I put him back out in the pasture, he didnít want to stand around and hang out at all, he just walked away. Thatís pretty unusual for him. Then Teddy also didnít want a hug, so boo hoo I didnít get any horse love today. I called my daughterís horse in and fed her, did a couple of barn chores, took her back out, and that was my day.

So, riding Teddy was really good, but the rest was just ďmeh.Ē I will keep focusing on the positive and thinking about how to fix the negative.

ETA: for anyone who's actually reading this (!) I am open to suggestions or comments about anything I'm posting.
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Last edited by ACinATX; 12-05-2018 at 05:34 PM.
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post #8 of 31 Old 12-18-2018, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Here is a lesson that I have learned from having three horses: the more horses you have and the more you do with them, the less time you have to write about it! Also the more you have, the more you have to work to support them, and that takes the rest of the time.

My daughterís mare never liked being in the round pen, and for the past month sheís been acting up in the dressage arena (smaller arena) also. We switched her from her hackamore to a bitted bridle but that didnít really help. We got her to where sheís OK at the walk, but when trotting she throws her shoulder out and pulls her head down because she doesnít want to stay on the wall. For yesterdayís lesson (with my daughter riding) we went in the big arena and she did much better. The instructor noted how much more relaxed she seemed. So weíll try to stay in there for now, I think.

I rode my new horse, Teddy, in the same lesson (this was my daughterís private lesson, but now Iím hogging in on her time LOL). He seemed a lot happier in the big arena also Ė last time I rode him in the dressage arena and I felt like I was having to kick him along the whole time. This time he stepped out with a nice big swinging step from the get-go. Heís also getting better with the leg yields. For a horse as supposedly well-trained as he was, heís had a really hard time with leg yields. So Iíve been working with him on the ground by asking him to move over a lot when Iím tacking and grooming him. And, of course, praise praise praise when he does what I want. His leg yields were beautiful yesterday!

Iíve only been riding him for two weeks now, and we were going to give him a month of just walking, but he was doing so well that we decided to see how heíd do on a very short trot. Keeping in mind that he hadnít ben trotted in several months. So I got him to a place where I wanted to start, cued him, and Ö for one long second it was like he was holding his breath, trying to decide what I was asking or what he was supposed to be doing, but then he moved out into an absolutely gorgeous smooth floaty trot. We trotted the long and short side of the arena, and then let him be done for the day. Iím so happy with the progress heís making, and I feel really good that I spent a month just getting to know him on the ground and building that relationship before really asking anything of him. I feel like he trusts me and is willing to do what I ask, even if heís a little unsure of the whole thing.

So, that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy, as I slowly went to put the tack and grooming stuff away. Then, as I lazily looked out of the barn, I saw Ö no, it couldnít be Ö my pony, Gallego, had once again escaped from the pasture and was wandering around the front area. It was getting dark by the time and my instructor was OK leaving him out there (they usually have a few horses out there anyway) but of course I had to go and close the gate and make sure no one else had gotten out. I am sure he only does this when Iím here, because I never get there and find him wandering around the front and no one has ever said anything to me. I think he does it because he sees me and thinks about how I pull him out and feed him out there, so he gets excited and works the gate until it opens. Anyway. I rolled down the car window and yelled ďyouíre a naughty ponyĒ at him as I left. Unsurprisingly, he didnít seem to care about my opinion whatsoever. Ponies!
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post #9 of 31 Old 04-14-2019, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Teddy and I had a difficult lesson on Friday. I violated one of the principles I had when starting on him: don't change up more than one thing at a time. We rode in the "outside" arena (it's a regular arena that doesn't have a fence) AND tried a couple of low jumps. He actually did great over the jumps (he has jumped low jumps in the past) because he understood what I wanted and he knew he could do it. And I should add, I've only jumped a couple of times ever, and that was on point and shoot lesson horses. I have no idea how to measure distances, count strides, push at the right time, etc. But Teddy took care of it all for me! No hesitation, no thoughts of ducking out or stopping, just straight down the middle and over. But being "outside" made him really edgy, and I had a hard time keeping him under control.

Next time I ride him, I'll ride him out there again. Got to get him used to it. I'll make some ground pole series to make things nicer for him. (He loves ground poles. He does still have anxiety, and I think every time I ride him he feels like someone with test anxiety --"what are they going to ask me? What if I don't know the answers? Will someone yell at me?"-- but when he sees a series of ground poles he's like "Yes! This is the question that I studied! I absolutely know the answer to this! I go over them!") Hopefully he can stay focused on the ground poles and not worry about the lack of fences ("where do I go???")

Also wanted to add that last week my daughter rode him for the first time in a lesson, and he did so well with her. You could just tell how hard he was trying to do the right thing. You could see the anxiety build up occasionally, but he didn't need me there (OK, I was on the other side of the fence, but I was also off doing things around the barn also) to calm down. The instructor told me later that she remembered how difficult he had been last summer, and she couldn't believe how much better he was doing now.

One reason I finally got around to posting another journal entry is to add a picture the barn owner took of Teddy and me today. This is the horse that, when I started working with him in late fall, I couldn't even approach if I had cookies in my hand. Does he still have that anxiety? Yes, even though it's getting better. Does he trust me, though? I would say Yes!
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File Type: jpg Teddy&me_1_edit.jpg (101.6 KB, 3 views)

Last edited by ACinATX; 04-14-2019 at 05:00 PM.
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post #10 of 31 Old 04-16-2019, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Today was a day of new things.

I took Teddy out to the outside arena to work on his anxiety out there. He was worried at first, but then settled down and even dropped his head quite a bit, but that was all at the walk. Once we started trotting, he got really anxious again. I donít think it helped that I kept getting off him to re-adjust the trot poles (I thought they were the right distance apart, but he kept entering at a slow trot and exiting at a canter), and eventually he was like, ďBut you got OFF! Weíre DONE!Ē I ended up taking him in the other big arena and just doing a lot of circles and serpentines to get his mind off the anxiety. But I wasnít really happy with how the outdoor arena had gone, so I decided to make him do a little more work.

First, I opened a gate off him. This was the first time Iíve successfully opened a gate off any horse, and he was still a little worked up too, so Iím happy that we got it done. It helped that he really wanted to go through that gate, so once I unlatched it, I basically just let him push it open it himself.

Then we went across the creek of doom (which is about 20 feet wide and probably six inches deep at its deepest, but the horses still mostly hate it). He has always been really worried about crossing this stream, and Iíve actually only gotten him across it once, and that was leading him; but the new place has no streams and I really wanted to do this with him so heíd have the experience. So I made him go over. It took some time, but we did it. Then we even rode up the road a bit (which I didnít think he would do) and came back. So he got ďgood boyĒs for that.

Due to some poor choices on my part, Pony and Moonshine were way out in the front over the creek. I called them and they didnít come, so I was going to have to go across the creek myself and get them. I went over, but I decided that I would not walk back over it. So I put Moonshine in her halter, then put Pony in his halter, managed to hop on him while not losing her halter, and rode him bareback ponying her, across the creek. This was new to all of us, in one way or another: Iíve never ridden a horse with a halter and lead rope and been able to really make them do what I wanted, Iíd never ponied a horse, Pony had never ponied a horse (he has been ponied), and Moonshine has never been ponied (she has been ponied off, though). Really, it would have made more sense to get on Moonshine and do it, since sheís also a lot bigger and stronger than Pony, and theyíve done it that way before, but I was getting on bareback in the pasture, and I donít think I would have been able to do it on her. Anyway, we did it! It was trickier than I thought it would be, but Pony did a really good job for me. He didnít kick Moonshine when she was on his butt, didnít go too fast (mostly), let himself be steered mostly with legs, was really calm about the whole thing, and went over the creek without a second thought. I gave him cookies afterwards.

I had been hoping to really RIDE Pony today, and in fact I had gotten out all of his tack, but it took a while to get them back and I was so happy with how he did that I thought Iíd let him be done for the day. I still think heís more of a *potentially* awesome pony than an *actually* awesome pony, but I feel like more and more now Iím seeing the actual awesomeness and not just glimpses of potential.
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