Lost & Found: Dino's Work Ethic

Posing is hard when the ground is food. 
Historically, late winter through early spring can be a difficult time for riding Dino.

His Cushing's means that his hormones go a little bit wacky during the change of seasons, sometimes making him a little NQR in the soundness department, or just generally temperamental. And after a winter of limited work he is often extremely resistant to getting back to our regular training regimen. Dino's behavior in early-season lessons and ring work is generally totally petulant, and requests for things like cantering when I ask, or bending, or doing anything but moseying along at a walk on the buckle are met with angry faces, pinned ears, a swishy tail, and bucking.

It occurred to me the other day that this year, so far I've seen none of that naughtiness.

While he still gives me a little sass in lessons when he's not yet warmed up, or when I ask him to go back to work after a break, Dino has been, dare I say, positively pleasant in his work so far this year. He's had zero major meltdowns, I think he's bucked maybe once in a lesson so far in 2017, and our arena time hasn't demonstrated the historical ratio of 90% Desperately Trying To Make The Pony Go, 10% Actually Doing Productive Work.

While I'm not entirely sure where this new, wonderful springtime attitude towards work has come from, I think several factors are at play here:

1. I was able to ride consistently through the winter, albeit at a lower intensity. I don't think Dino had even an entire straight week off from being ridden this winter since the temperatures were fairly mild and we got very little snow. He never got the opportunity to assume that he'd been retired.

2. We took regular lessons all winter long. Except for the month of January, Dino and I have been taking lessons weekly, and very rarely skipping a chance to work with our trainer. This is a big change from years past - when I was working regularly with a trainer, I often took the winters off from lessons, and before then I did not take lessons at all. This also means that we've kept jumping all winter, which is highly unusual for us!

3. Bodywork has made Dino fitter, stronger, and more comfortable in his body and his work. I'm a believer, and his next session is coming up soon! I've also kept up with Pentosan injections through the winter, which make a noticeable difference in his movement.

4. I'm just plain riding better. Problems that were an issue for me a year ago are not such big problems anymore, I've learned to ride Dino more effectively and correctly, and I make a big effort to be sensitive to his need for Outside Time. I know that I can't drill this pony on flatwork 5 days a week and keep him happy, and getting him out on the trail is crucial to his mental well-being.

While I'm now knocking frantically on every wooden surface I can find, I have to say that I'm thrilled with the way Dino is working this early on in the season. I get on, and he goes to work. There is no lengthy, kid-glove warmup during which I try not to offend my pony. There are no tantrums. There is (mostly) no expectation that he will refuse my first request for the canter. Instead of feeling like I need two months to catch up to where we left off in the fall, I'm confident that we're there now. In early March.

Is this how people with normal horses and indoor arenas feel?!


  1. Hooray!! This is so exciting. I only kinda feel this way usually because I'm lazy in the winter anyway!

  2. Being able to have a consistent plan thru the winter is so important IMO. Letting them have the entire winter off, or staying in mostly regular work are preferable to fits of stopping and starting, at least in my experience. This winter was really ideal in terms of minimal weather-related interruptions too!! Even if spring is now showing us a bit of a reminder about what we missed out on in winter, it's still loads better lol. So awesome that Dino has done so well with it all too!

  3. This is pretty close to where I am with Tristan right now, too, though he still throws his share of tantrums in the warmup. (Actually for some reason going back to work after a walk break is waaaaaaay worse, like he thinks he was done and I lied to him.) Awesome that Dino is giving you such good work!

  4. Yay!! I've been sort of feeling this way about Katai's work ethic recently and I think some of these are the case for her as well :)

  5. Managing horses and riders through the winter is really hard! I don't know how you do it without an indoor, honestly, lol

  6. People with indoor arenas that aren't also lazy (aka me when I had access to one)

  7. Consistent work through the winter is so hard to do! I was consistently impressed how you kept it up this year. I love that you two are at this amazing junction together and can't wait to see how your show season will go.


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