When Opportunity Knocks

“Y no cookies??!”

About a week ago, Colter’s owner approached me and offered to sell me the big, goofy horse. I sort of stared at him and said something about it depending on the price.

Which it does. In a major way.
See, while Colter is a very, very nicely bred fancy Oldenburg who I know very well, he is also extremely inexperienced for a horse of his age (around 10). I can’t justify purchasing him for an extravagant amount. 
His owner (who is a super nice person) didn’t give me a price. I get the feeling he’d just as soon give me the horse, just to have its expenses out of his hair; I don’t think that will happen, though.
Colt’s owner’s mother (who is also my boss, to make things more convoluted) bred about a zillion warmbloods from her off-the-track Thoroughbred broodmares back in the early 2000s. When Colt’s owner graduated from law school, he was given his pick of the babies to take as a gift. He ended up with a talented mare, who was quickly sold to a buyer in Latin America. He selected Colt as his next prospect. Colt was a two year-old by the illustrious Wradar and out of a big chestnut mare named Cherry Ice (who is still hanging out in the paddock across from Colt’s). Cherry Ice (reportedly) was the best of the broodmares, consistently producing high quality, athletic sport horse foals. Colt’s owner sent him off for training and subsequently became very busy with his law practice and growing family. And so Colter languished in a pasture for years, terrorizing the other horses and most humans who came to feed him.
So while Colt is a 10 year old with the mind of a 3 year old, I think his owner will consult with my boss on what the horse should be sold for; I’m afraid that she’ll be a little biased toward the horse and will suggest some totally insane amount that I cannot afford. 
Now, if I can manage to sell Gina for at least what she was purchased for, I will be in some shape to make an offer on the big red goofball. 
In the mean time, I’ll content myself with the current arrangement and dream of what I could do were he mine.

Being a Big Horse

We are still deeply suspicious of the geese.
One of Colter’s biggest problems last year was his inability to refocus after being startled. We’d be having a nice ride and something would set him off- the horses in the adjacent paddock galloping by, someone moving a ground pole, a noisy truck driving down the road- and he would have a total meltdown. He was completely unable to get past the scary experience. I distinctly remember a ride last year where a motorcycle roared down the road and spooked Colt. After he stopped fleeing in terror, I settled for getting him to walk one circle in each direction before I called it a day. 
Anne and I rode on Saturday; it was a beautiful day, sunny and windy. Colt and I were having fun playing “Follow The Leader” with Anne and Atut, walking serpentines and 10-meter circles. Colt was behaving beautifully- listening, bending, accepting contact. All of a sudden, he leapt forward, very nearly unseating me. He stopped and whirled around to stare intently into the pasture. Anne told me some geese had abruptly descended from the sky into the pasture, near the pond. Colt must have seen them and been frightened. I patted him and assured him the horse-eating geese were very far away and not a threat.
And then? He flicked an ear back to me, as if making up his mind about the veracity of my statement, and went back to work. Like, work work. We rode for another twenty minutes and he put in some very solid trot work.
Colter, it seems, has finally put on his big horse pants. 

Trotting

The weather’s been dreadful for riding. Rain, snow, sleet, wind- we’ve had it all. Today, it’s a lovely 60 degrees outside, but the arena is under about two inches of water. I’m itching to get back to work, but I think it’s going to be a couple of weeks before the weather is consistently good. (More snow and sleet are predicted for tomorrow!)

I’m happy to report that when I rode about two weeks ago, Colt was a gem. He was soft and flexible and happy. I was especially proud that we trotted in a big circle for about five minutes in each direction. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but ten quality minutes of balanced, rhythmic, harmonious work is a vast improvement on Colt’s old routine of “run around really fast with my head in the air”. He was also a champ for deworming, once Anne and I got him cornered. She stuck the wormer in his mouth, while I held his lead rope and casually held a dressage whip in my other hand!

Next month, Green Country Dressage is having a schooling show at a nice local facility that’s about 30 minutes from where Colt is stabled. I’ve gotten permission from his owner to take him to the show! We won’t be competing, but my plan is to take him and let Moe babysit him for a few hours while I watch my friend Trista compete. Moe is an old hand at shows (as evidenced by his casual attitude when he was loaded up and driven for 10 hours after not being touched for four years) and I think having a friend (or at least pasture-mate) will help Colt keep his cool in a new environment. So over the next couple of weeks, even if the weather keeps the ground icky, I can at least work on convincing Colt the trailer won’t eat him.

Progress

“DIS HOW U CHOO FOODZ? YA??”

Happy anniversary to Colt, the gigantic red goofball! I’ve been riding him for about a year and we’ve definitely made some progress. A year ago, he was a surly jerk with poor manners. He refused to tie, went flailing backwards at the sight of a saddle, swung his huge rump around, locked his jaw and trucked around the arena, and flatly refused to stand still for the farrier. Today, he is easy to catch, tie, groom, and tack. He stands quietly for my saint of a farrier without the aid of sedatives. While he still tries to pull my arms out of their sockets, he sometimes carries himself very nicely. I am definitely no miracle worker or fabulous trainer. I think he’s mainly benefited from regular human interaction (other than feeding), lots of treats, and judicious use of a dressage whip. I’m proud of him!

I hacked him for about half an hour today. He was as nice as could be in the barn; I’m continually impressed with his ability to hang out by himself. A year ago, he was totally bonkers if another horse wasn’t right next to him. We spent our half hour walking around the arena, doing circles and serpentines, and halt-walk/walk-halt transitions. Colt tried to pretend he was scared of these black barrels that have been in the arena since the beginning of time, but I assured him they hadn’t turned into horse-eating monsters in the last week.
Our downward transitions need lots of work, but I’m happy with the direction they’re going. I think a better fitting bit will help. This loose-ring, while wide enough, hangs sort of low in his mouth because of how big the rings are. The enormous bridle needs a couple of holes punched in it; we’ll see how he is once the bit is a little higher in his mouth. 
After some good bending work, I called it a day and proceeded to take pictures of the noble steed.
The browband is just ridiculous.
Pretty cute, for a big lug.
Least flattering pic ever.

Colter Day!

Yesterday, the weather finally cooperated enough for me to go ride with Anne. While she tacked up Atut, I wrangled Colter and spent twenty minutes pulling burrs out of his tail. Colter was a total doll. He stood quietly, even after Atut left the barn and even while Atut’s paddock-mate Minnie screamed and trotted around. Colt got a little bug-eyed when he saw me coming with the saddle, but did nothing naughty while I tacked him up. He gave me a little of his old nastiness when it came to his bridle, but I’m willing to chalk that up to a lukewarm bit. 

In the arena, Colt and I were greeted by a super-pissed Anne and Atut. Atut was apparently being extra-evasive and  like…kind of nasty! He didn’t want to move forward and even went backwards when Anne mounted. That’s definitely un-Atut like behavior. Once Anne got a couple of good transitions out of him, she got off and called it a day. 
I longed Colt for about twenty minutes before I got on; seeing as how I hadn’t ridden him in the better part of four months, I thought I’d rather be safe than sorry. He was an idiot on the longe line, swinging his head in to stop and stare at me and leaping off when I stepped toward him. Now added to my list of Things To Do With Colter: return to the round pen and review longeing. 
Once he behaved himself on the longe line for more than five minutes, I hopped on. We worked only at a walk, since I didn’t want him to get any hotter in the cold weather. He was a superstar! Anne had us do a few bending exercises as well as some halt-walk transitions. Colt was quiet, relaxed, and totally focused on what I was telling him to do. 
When we wrapped up riding, I untacked him and brought out the bane of his existence: wormer! The last time I wormed him, he spat most of it out into my hair/onto my shirt. I backed him into a stall, quietly rubbed his face with the tube of wormer, and slipped it into the corner of his mouth. He immediately freaked out, zoomed backwards, scared himself, farted, and wormer squirted in a greenish-yellow fountain into the air. Most of it landed on the floor of the stall. I got another tube out, gritted my teeth, and managed to get most of it down his throat. He pouted all the way out to his field.
Y U GIVE ME NASTY YELLOW PASTE?!?!?!

In contrast, I looped a lead rope around Moe’s neck out in the pasture, and gave him his dose of dewormer with a minimum of fuss. Moe is the best horse ever.

Happy New Year!