Oh wow. I just realized I haven’t posted in over a month! For some reason I thought I posted back around when I dropped Joey off at the trainer, but that must’ve just been my recollections of an Instagram post or two. So if you follow me on there, you’re likely pretty up to date with my goings on, but for posterity, I’ll give some more details about things here.
Let’s start with Joey since I know most people are here for the horsey stuff. Hawaii later? Sounds good.
So, I took Joey to the trainer a couple weeks later than initially planned. He was originally supposed to go at the tail end of April, but it ended up being put off until the first week of May since Trainer (J) had two shows back to back and wasn’t going to be on hand to watch him settle in. Knowing Joey, I wasn’t terribly worried that he wouldn’t settle well with whoever was watching the barn, but I can understand J’s apprehension, so I was totally fine with two more weeks of Joey cuddles.
So, on May 2nd, I took a half day off work and went to the barn and found Joey laid flat out in the hay unconscious, and knowing him, likely snoring. (I wasn’t close enough to hear, but if you remember the video of his gelding, you know snoring is in his repertoire.)
I went on and did my evening barn chores so I wouldn’t have to do them that night when I got back without him, then hooked up to the trailer and got all the windows and vents opened for him while waiting for K to get there to ride along for moral support/trailer driving coaching. I’ve only pulled the trailer 4 times or so and never with one of my own horses on board, just S’s (thanks S for guinea pigging your horses?) 😂 The drive over was uneventful minus the fact that the last 10 miles of interstate driving included an absolute gully washing downpour. I joked that Joey’s entire face would be drenched when we got there.
A couple days before this, I got the grand idea to practice loading with Joey because I couldn’t remember if he’d been on my trailer. I knew he’d been on K’s stock type that has all the open sides and room, but thought my small, dark, two horse slant might prove more scary. What I didn’t consider was that I wouldn’t be able to get Joey to back OFF of the trailer. Being his typical fearless self, he followed me onto my dark little trailer with little hesitation and he stood quietly beside me as if we were just standing in the field chilling. Zero percent nervous, not even terribly curious about things really. Just in a trailer. No big deal. Cool. Except he was NOT feeling backing off. At first he was like, sure mom, backing, I know this game. Then he realized he’d have to let his back feet drop off into the oblivion and he very calmly told me no. For 30 minutes or so. No escalation, no further nerves about being on the trailer, just resignation to the fact that we now live in the horse trailer.
As I mentioned, my two horse slant is small. If I hadn’t have the rear tack expanded I might have had a better chance at convincing him to back off, and it wouldn’t have been so tight to let him turn around in the trailer, but I finally gave up, looped the lead rope around his neck and got off the trailer to let him figure out how to handle the situation. Questionable logic possibly, but I think he’s proven capable of rational thought, so I figured why not let him figure it out. So he glanced over his shoulder at me, contorted himself into a pretzel and turned around. He then looked at me quietly and waited for me to grab the lead rope and encourage him to step down.
So when we pulled in at J’s, I’d already decided just to let him pretzel and turn again and ask J to put that on the list of things that Joey needs to learn if he thinks he isn’t ready to ride and needs something else ground work wise to work on in the meantime. J said that the first couple of weeks he was there would be focused on ground work and that he would teach him how to back. I replied that he knows how to back, but the off of a trailer part was the crucial bit of the sentence and he just reiterated that he’d get a lot of groundwork first. Sounds good to me.
So, the interesting thing about working with a new trainer is that they have no idea of the owner or horse’s abilities at drop off. Not that I’m a seasoned pro or that Joey is the epitome of a cultured two year old, but honestly between my half ass effort and Joey’s general trainability, we really haven’t done half bad. But, since J didn’t know either of us from Adam, I think it’s safe to say that he probably proceeded with caution since he knows so little about us. So sure, by all means, teach my baby how to back. 😉
After the weekend, I messaged J to check in and asked how Joey was doing, to which I got a “doing good and eating fine” message back. I’ve only known Joey not to eat once and that was when he had the infection/ran the super high fever after his castration, so yeah, I’d hope he’s eating. I had already determined that J was a man of few words, so I didn’t take it personally and went to Hawaii eager to return and see how groundwork was going on the 17th. On the 10th, eight days after I dropped Joey off, I received a short video clip that showed Joey trotting around the indoor with J aboard. He was low headed and quiet on a loose rein and looked more balanced than I’ve seen a lot of horses after 30 days, much less in this short of an amount of time.
I’d be lying if I said that seeing my kiddo going so well didn’t hit me right in the feels. I was a tiny bit sad that I’m missing a lot of his training, but I also know that that is just part of having a horse in full time training, even though I’m far from used to this scenario. Most of my emotion was sheer pride. I’ve always been the horsey friend with the least training skills, so to see my baby moving ahead of schedule after spending 99% of his formative time with me and me alone was validating. I give 90% of the credit for his trainability to damn good genetics, but that other 10% was me…doing something right? I spent the rest of Friday in Hawaii on a high. There’s nothing like being on a dream vacation and getting SO excited about what you have waiting on you at home.
So, after a week in Hawaii, I arrived back in Virginia and made plans to go see Joey first thing the next morning. I walked in the barn to see him tied and he watched me very closely. J was on another horse in the outdoor so I scratched on Joey for a few minutes (and teared up a tinyyyy bit to be honest…) before going out to say hi to J. Joey seemed 100% at home and like I’d just walked out of the barn five minutes before, not two weeks ago.
After finishing up with the other horse, J tacked Joey up casually like you would a broke trail horse and lunged him a few circles at all gaits in each direction before bridling him and mounting. Honestly I felt like I was watching a smaller version of Paige because he stood quietly while J mounted and just had the same general demeanor that I’m used to with Paige. He walked him around and flexed his neck a couple of times before reaching back and fooling with the saddle bags on the back of the saddle, making noise with the velcro on them numerous times while Joey just walked along unbothered by it all.
I had told J that Joey was laid back when I first met him then again when I dropped him off and had also said that he has a lot more whoa than go. J countered that several do until stalled and put on the alfalfa, then they get a little hot until they settle in. So I was pleased to hear that being stalled and on alfalfa hasn’t changed his disposition at all. J stated that if he keeps the same attitude as he has currently that Joey is the type of horse that he likes to train and that he’d much rather have one that quits unless you make him work vs. one that runs hot and has to be ridden down to get to a point of being trainable. I’m 100% not the type of rider who wants/likes a hot horse, so I agreed that I’d prefer Joey stay lazy as well since that’s what I’m used to with his mother. Willing to work if you ask, but otherwise willing to chill. I bred for that brain first, conformation and movement second, and color third.
This is one of the reasons I’m happy to have Joey in full training somewhere. A few friends have quipped that Joey is so easy I could’ve started him myself, which is debatable. I can see their point in that Joey is so easy, but by sending him to a professional I keep his willingness to quit from becoming a insistence to quit. CoughcoughRobin. I know where my strengths lie and training riding horses who don’t have holes in their training is far from one of them.
Anyway, after watching Joey walk and trot around the indoor, J kissed and Joey immediately bopped up into a little rolling canter so quietly that it surprised me. I didn’t even know if he was loping him yet at all so to see him effortlessly step into the lope made me grin. The balance and body control that Joey has already after two weeks in training is something I keep being surprised by. He’s always been this derpy little baby in my head, so to see him capable of something athletic looking for his stage of training made me happy. J quipped that he was going to start riding him in spurs the next week (which is now I guess) so that he can show Joey that he has faster gears than he’s currently volunteering. He said that everything up to this point has been about forward movement with steering and brakes, but I can see why he wants to use the spurs because even maintaining what I call Joey’s “lah-te-dah” trot and rolling canter is taking some pretty dramatic pony kicks. Naturally this doesn’t surprise me at all after teaching him how to go on the longe line as the gaits he’s given me have always defaulted to what is easiest. So I guess this week Joey is learning about how to adjust his speed and stride length now that J feels like he’s ready to accept spurs.
After demonstrating Joey both ways at all three gaits, J dropped the reins and grinned and said, “not half bad for two weeks.” I heartily agreed. I’d told J previously that Joey’s well being, mentally and physically, ranked over rushing him into things, so it was reassuring to see how easily things seem to be going and how comfortably Joey is adapting to working life. J again mentioned that he likes that Joey isn’t reactive or hot because that allows him to gradually increase the length of his workouts with gaining fitness in mind while still being able to teach him something with each ride. While I agree with the old adage that wet saddle pads make broke horses, it’s nice to see a trainer realize that it isn’t necessary to work one into the ground past their point of physical ability. Joey left his workout looking alert and engaged without being warm or overworked.
When I initially talked to J about Joey I told him that I was hoping to eventually show in the ranch events at APHA shows and that my long term big goal was to ride him and look the part at the APHA World Show. When I told J that in January, he gave me a little spiel about how much training goes into a horse showing at that level and what qualities a horse has to have to be competitive in the ranch classes. This information wasn’t new to me, but once again, J didn’t know me or my horse from Adam, so I think he was taking my goals with a grain of salt. I haven’t brought anything competitive up again since that conversation, opting instead to let Joey demonstrate whatever skills he has to J over the course of time and let J make his own opinions about Joey’s possible future. I realized my goals might not be terribly far fetched when after mounting Joey and starting to walk circles, J looked at me and asked when and where the APHA World Show is held. I told him and he went on to ask me several questions about Paige and Tanner and trying to get a better idea of Joey’s breeding, so I think the wheels are definitely turning now that Joey has demonstrated that he’s more than a pretty colored gelding.
J has a show this coming weekend, so I’ll be going another two weeks without seeing the kiddo. Not that I can’t go down there on the week nights, but at this point I’m not the person that needs to be riding him, so I can make better use of my time by getting stuff done at the house and farm on week night evenings instead of driving over and watching Joey. It’s fun to see the progress in two week intervals honestly. Based on what J had said, I set my expectations low for the first two weeks and was more than pleasantly surprised to see Joey at the point that he’s at. Until then I’ll just keep watching the videos from Friday on a loop…makes sense, right? 😉