Cello & I have had a lot of fun since starting training for the expo. We’ve also had a few incidents, but overall I’m pretty proud of this little guy. Let’s get into the details!
We started trailering down to the county arena, even though we have a great home arena. We’ve met up with some friends and worked on being brave in new spaces. Remarkably, Cello is calmer at the Eagle Fairgrounds than at home- less spooky. I think part of this has to do with the company in the arena, and part of it has to do with the trailering.
Trailering this year has been… interesting so far, due to ice and snow. The road down to the arena from the ranch is pretty icy in a few spots, I really have had to learn to trust engine braking. My foot still flexes for the brakes, it’s seriously so hard not to touch them! 🙂
The first time or two we went down to the arena, it took two of us to load Cello. Now, he walks right in with just me! I can tie him, close the center divider and leave without him panicking. I think he enjoys seeing new things and going new places.
Our arena work has been going okay. When we don’t add speed, and are just working on walk and trot, he gives at the poll and moves off my leg. We don’t have true collection yet on any level, but his headset is lower and he will give for a few steps at a time. Each ride is softer and softer at the trot… until we canter!
Our left lead canter is becoming more rhythmic and he is moving out more. Our right lead canter is hit and miss- sometimes he just goes into a huge Friesian trot and I have to get really loud with my aids to get him to lift his shoulder and move. The last session was pretty rough, after two decent sessions. I will be utilizing the dressage whip on our next ride!
I should mention how EASILY this horse pops lead changes- one tempes at time, and so smoothly, though of course this isn’t when asked.
I started thinking about a freestyle routine, considering bow and arrow shooting. We worked on that some, and Cello is pretty chill about the bow and arrow from the ground. I don’t think we will get to mounted shooting before the expo, so I might just target shoot from the ground at the very end. If we do a freestyle, maybe we will gear it more towards exercises you would see in working equitation. I’m still not 100% convinced that we will actually have a freestyle put together for the show! I really want to focus on softening in our rides and addressing foundation issues.
This all sounds positive, but I have to discuss the negative. Cello is SO GOOD… until he’s not. There’s a photo in that block of Cello standing in knee-deep snow. That was the day he trampled me. We walked towards the arena like normal, went to pass the tractor like normal. Martin pulled the tractor over and shut everything off to let us pass, as Cello had perked ears and a lifted head. Cello has walked past tractors many times, but he was very interested and tense this time. I circled Cello once, pushed out his shoulder, reminded him I was there and to respect my space… then proceeded forward. He exploded, sideways, into me. I was in the right spot and COULD have pushed myself off his shoulder, had the snowbank not taken out the back of my knees.
I fell into the snow bank, which was easily 4 feet deep with the plowing, and Cello came with me. There were no hoofprints around me when I went back and looked. He stepped on me at least once, on my left shoulder, probably more than once. It happened really quick, but he went over me, all 4 hooves. I realized I needed to further explain this, as at first some people just thought he bumped me or knocked me down. He didn’t knock me down and scare me, he did brush up against me- he went literally over me. The powder and my puffy coat helped me avoid injury, aside from deep bruising.
Well, he took off down the road and I struggled to get up as quick as I could. The ranch manager was running over and I didn’t want him to think I was hurt. Cello was just genuinely scared; he bolted around the corner, then ground tied. I think he tried not to step on me too much… I don’t know. I walked right up to him and picked up the leadline without him moving a muscle. Afterwards, we moved off the road a ways and let the tractor pass. He held it together, but then was super spooky in the arena that whole week.
We worked on desensitizing that whole week, which paid off. On our last ride, crazy snow slides came off the roof. It spooked Cello (and scared me even!) but he just scooted to the side, thought about panicking, and then calmed immediately. I was pretty proud and made sure he knew it.
So right now, that’s where we are at! I’m trying to get 20 rides in the month of February (29 days.) I think I will fall short of my target but hit at least 15 rides, and I’ve worked harder on each ride because of my personal challenge. I’m also recording “vibes” or how I feel at the end of each ride. I want to make sure we are in the right partnership. I absolutely love Cello, but there are some holes in our relationship. I want to make sure we both can be happy together.
Cello & Dani