Well, Duck arrived in one piece. Seven hours across Missouri and four new trailer tires later. We opened the trailer and he was wide-eyed and anxious, to say the least. Long story short, we led him down to his new pasture and group of new dudes to hang and swish flies with. One horse, a large palomino Quarter Horse who was delivered the same day, seemed to warm up quickly and have since become best friends. Duck and Chance. Chance is also one of the biggest horses in the pasture, so there’s proof Duck is no dummy. He’s actually a clever little rascal.
Day one exercising began with a quick groom and saddle. After a failed attempt at getting fully saddled, my new friend and stable manager, Mo, came to help me out. So far, she’s been a wonderful person to have around. We put Duck in the round pen and lunged for quite some time to get the sass worked out of him. A round pen is approximately a 30ft in diameter. You stand in the middle of this round pen with a large whip and the horse works the outside circle to work off some pent-up steam. He took to the round pen like it was old hat, leading me to believe this method worked for him the past. So we lunged (adjective for me in the middle guiding the trotting/cantering horse around the circle) for a long, sweaty time until I felt comfortable enough to get on and do some workouts. Nothing major, just some turns around the round pen and then more out in the larger, covered arena. My favorite moment of that session was the rain hitting the tin roof of the barn and us trotting peacefully underneath. Just one of those nice natural moments I like to collect.
After about two hours, we called it quits and unsaddled. A little brushing, and then I sprayed him down with a hose, which he did not mind like I thought he might. End of session one. I’d call it a success.
Day two was a little different. Plucking Duck from his posse wasn’t too hard, but it is very clear who his new BFF is. I led him to the barn for saddling and more lunging. As a lifelong horsewoman, I have put lead ropes on one way for my entire life – the chain goes under the chin and fastens on the opposite side to create a sort of curb chain for more control. He wasn’t a fan.
So much so that he reared up, fell down, and reared up some more, creating quite the spectacle. This caused some scrapes under his chin, two scraped hocks on his back legs, and some gravel burns where he was flailing about. The dude has impressive ups. Possibly broke some blood vessels in his eyes due to his panic attack. Of course, I’d have the horse who gets panic attacks.
After I could get him into the round pen, we worked and worked and worked. And worked some more. After lunging, we took a short walk around the property and crossed a low bridge of water with no problem. You can’t wave your arm in front of his face without him throwing up his head, but he’ll traipse through water no problem. Everyone has their quirks, I suppose.
Lessons learned these first few days:
- Duck does not like carrots.
- Duck does not like the lead rope chain under his chinny chin chin.
- He is anxious and skittish, to be handled calmly and softly until we get more familiar with one another.
- Duck has mad ups for being a short guy. He is a smart, ornery, and capable little shit. But he’s also an awesome little shit that is going to challenge me and make me feel accomplished after a few months of hard work pays off.
- Frankly, I think he’s angry that he’s being asked to work after several years of sloth. I would be too!
- Routines are going to be good.
- Exposure to active, smart horses will be good.
Unfortunately, this is the last night I could go ride this week due to a full schedule. I’ve asked Mo to work him a little twice next week when we’re on vacation. I do love this horse business though…it may even be the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.