Wind and rain and snow – oh my! It was a blustery day at the barn this weekend, with strong winds, heavy rain, and snow sliding off the arena roof left right and center. After bringing Luc into the barn, I had a feeling it might be an explosive kind of ride. He was wild-eyed and stressed, startling at every sound or movement.
I thought he would settle as Jen, his owner and my sister, groomed him. It is after all his second favourite activity, right behind eating. But no such luck. He remained incredibly tense the entire time. Things didn’t get better when I walked him into the arena. His head was high, his eyes wide, and he didn’t really want to move in any direction.
Walking him around the ring on foot as usual was more challenging than it should have been. He would inch along when we were headed toward the big scary door at the far end of the arena, and then try and trot away from whenever his butt was to it. And then the snow started sliding off the roof.
Thankfully for me, Luc’s fear response is typically only to jump forward a few strides and then turn and stare at whatever has him concerned. Otherwise I might have been in a bit of trouble. After he settled a bit more, it was time to get on.
For the first time in a long time, Luc chose not to stand quietly as I got on. Instead, he waited for me to get one foot in the stirrup and then turned around and started walking away. Bad pony! I managed to swing my other leg over and get situated fairly quickly, and in typically Luc fashion, he hadn’t been going anywhere in a hurry so was easy to stop.
Deciding that my best chance of keeping his brain between his ears was to put him to work right away, I urged him forward and immediately headed down to the scary end. He was tense, but the occasional ear flick in my direction let me know he was still listening to me – at least a little bit. While he wanted to power past the door and down the long side toward home, he was staying at the walk.
After a few laps like that in each direction, I moved him into a trot. It was actually nice and forward, about the only good side effect of him being a little high strung! He played the same game in the trot. Pick up speed heading away from the door, and then slow to a crawl when coming toward it.
Since he wanted to go forward, I indulged him. I let him go forward away from the scary end – but then I made him maintain that pace all the way around the ring. A few times around like that and he was listening much better and much less eager to race away down the long side. We picked up the canter and did pretty much the same thing.
Despite thinking I might be riding a rocket ship when I got on, it was actually a very positive and enjoyable ride. Even when a large section of snow let go and came crashing down while we were riding past it, Luc listened and behaved beautifully. Our little boy is growing up. And boy is it about time – after all, he’s nearly 12!