In Which I Make Questionable Choices

You. Treat-Man. Make with the noms! 
On Saturday Michael came out to the barn with me to ride for the first time since probably November.

He's a fair-weather horseman.

So for some reason I decided that my out-of-riding-shape novice husband should be the first one to get on the pony who has of late been known to be very difficult while warming up, as well as a known tester of new riders, and riders who haven't sat on him in a while.

I thought this was a good idea. "Because Dino LOVES Michael!"

Less nose-booping, MORE FOOD.

I may be intellectually impaired.

Dino was a horrible brat. Thankfully Michael wasn't really up to much riding aside from toodling around at the walk and trot and going over some poles, but Dino wasn't having any of it. He outright refused to trot off several times, giving Michael the tail swish/angry face/butt swing while my poor hubby vainly thumped the pony's sides with his legs. Eventually they got going, but it wasn't pretty.

At least my husband liked the new saddle?

So after that rather embarrassing 20-minute period of my life, I got on my pony knowing full well that I was walking straight into battle. At the walk he was okay - going moderately forward when I put my leg on. But when I asked for the trot Dino put on his Angry Pony Face and stamped his little feets and had a tantrum. Swat shoulders with reins (over-under like a barrel racer), thump with legs, repeat until pony moves. Pony didn't want to move. So I got off of him a total of THREE TIMES, lunged him around me on the end of the reins and made him yield his haunches and rein-back from the ground, and then got back on. Pony trots, pony decides he does not want to trot anymore. Get off pony. Repeat groundwork.

The third time I got off, Dino finally gave in. I went to send him away from me, and he scooted off and kicked out, finally truly REACTING to what I was asking from him instead of hunkering down in his Mind Palace of Solitude. I patted him, told him he was a good boy, and got back on.

From that point on he was GREAT. Seriously great.

I started with some easy walk-trot transitions in a long frame, moving him up and down with my seat. Dino was loose and tracking up and downright pleasant. I moved him forward in the trot down the long side of the ring and sort of let him just slip into the canter, and I just got into 2-point and went with it. Big pats and "GOOD PONY" when he moved forward!

We moved on to a big loopy canter figure-8, coming down to walk in the middle to change leads. Once he learned the pattern, Dino started to really sit down behind in the canter depart, and everything got rounder and more connected.

Then we did one of my very favorite exercises - riding 10 strides of each gait before making a transition up or down while tracking around the outside of the arena. For a pony who tends to be slow off the aids and on the forehand, it's a great way to keep them listening and balanced. I mix it up a little bit with this one, not always following the same pattern of gaits, and it does a lot of awesome things for Dino. The anticipation of the transition gets him to round himself and lift his forehand all on his own.

I was able to end with some good trot/halt/trot transitions, and since my pony had finally agreed to Dressage, we called it a day. He was exhausted, and sweaty, but Dino had given me some good work after having a total meltdown. Brain & Body regained.

I know some of you are probably thinking, "Wow. Why does she put up with that crap in the first place?" Dino presents a unique challenge of previous riding-associated pain, lots of intelligence, and a stubborn attitude. While he is sound and all of the conditions that caused him discomfort in the past are - and have been for several years now - successfully treated and managed, he still holds onto the knowledge that work can hurt. And he knows that his preferred method of evasion - ignoring all forward aids and shutting down mentally - has worked in the past to get him out of having to actually do anything that he doesn't want to do. Add in the typical pony'tude that causes every equine 14.2 and under to test their rider on a daily basis, and I often find myself having to be very creative in my negotiations with Dino.

At this point in the year, his work is also starting to get more physically challenging. I'm not just letting him mosey around on a long rein with his nose in the dirt, he's actually got to show up and use himself and start getting fit. And while Dino is physically capable, he's not in good enough shape yet that the work is easy. A solid dressage ride makes him sore! He's got to use his butt, and his back, and his neck, and his legs, and his abs. Using one's butt is hard! So he tries early on in the ride to get out of this whole flatwork thing, and on Saturday Michael was not the right person to convince him otherwise, and I take full responsibility for the ensuing tantrum.

But when we work together, it is so very, VERY good. When we are on the same team, I have myself a fabulous little sport pony who is REALLY fun to ride and capable of quite a lot. I know most people wouldn't want to deal with Dino's tantrums and peculiar preferences, but that makes him Dino, and the amazing performances he gives me when his mind is focused make it all worth it!

Today, I think we'll go for a trail ride.


  1. What a goof! I'm sure it's tough to come back to work after a long winter!

  2. Oh pony! He sounds like me when someone makes me go to the gym ;)

  3. I have definitely had those days. Glad you're sticking with it and figuring things out.

  4. you ARE a creative negotiator! and so patient too. It doesn't make me wonder why you put up with it, I am too busy being impressed with the way you methodically work through it :)

  5. Sassypants pony! I can commiserate with him- getting in shape is hard!

  6. I love reading about conquering challenges with a smart, stubborn pony, and I know exactly why you stick with it! Honestly, reading about Dino, I've never wondered why you would want to battle through the tough times, because it always sounds like you're having fun, he's having fun (for the most part), and you enjoy it. Life is not about riding easy, push button horses all the time, and being a clever negotiator is a super important riding skill to have. And also, it helps me with exercises for my stubborn pony!

  7. i agree w nicole. nothing about Dino has ever worried me bc nothing about Dino ever seems to worry you. he presents challenges - yes, but they usually seem like true tests of the rider, rather than anything dangerous. so long as you enjoy reaping the rewards of meeting those challenges - more power to you! he seems like he's worth the extra effort :)

  8. Thanks so much for the kind comments everyone - we appreciate your support!! :)

  9. My horse would have more of a tantrum at a trail ride than dressage work lol


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