Look at those damn ears! He's not pissed - he's playing and having fun trying to dump my ass.
Sparky just spent three days at boot camp, also known as the Greg Best clinic. The clinic was again held at Three Bears Farm, about 25 minutes from our barn. After watching Greg work with another young horse at the last clinic, I knew that taking Sparky to this one would be a Very Good Idea.
As those who follow my blog and who have ever talked to me know, Sparky is, ummm, interesting. He's brave as hell, but will randomly throw hissy fits (consisting of bucking, running out, stopping...) over the most mundane of things. Having come to a point where pain has pretty well been ruled out, it's time to crack that peanut brain of his. And Greg was the perfect person to help me do it.
Day One was pretty uneventful. It became obvious that Sparky has a fairly dramatic right shift over the jumps, so a primary goal was to work towards correcting that. "This horse will never go left," Greg proclaimed at one point. Interesting...
Day Two... ahh... Day Two is the reason I took Sparky to the clinic. Sparky's alter-ego (*need a good alter-ego name*) was in attendance. After a very good start and improved straightness in our warm-up fences, it came time to jump a small course. A small course that included a roll-top. I'll admit, I didn't ride very well on the approach to the roll-top the first time; I wanted to see what Sparky would do. And he did pretty much what I thought he might: he ran out to the left. And upon disciplining and re-presenting, a MAJOR hissy fit ensued. And the little jerk dumped me on the ground. Grrrr... So of course, I do what it completely natural, and in front of everyone (proper adults and small children included), I said to my horse, "You ASSHOLE!"
I climbed back aboard the Asshole, and our battle continued. There were comments of "pretty good moves" and "maybe join the rodeo instead," but eventually Sparky went over the roll-top pretty well. Following instructions, I patted him for doing well after landing from the roll-top. We completed the course, and then (again, under instruction), continued and did the course again. Sparky again jumped the roll-top well, so I patted him again, and we continued on our way. Apparently, I didn't need to pat Sparky and tell him he was a good boy that second time - "He knows just how good he thinks he is," Greg commented.
The others in the group went, and once it was our turn again, there was again some hesitation about the roll-top, but overall it went pretty well. Due to a tired horse and rider, that right drift got pretty bad again, but the bigger issue had been addressed. As we were wrapping up for the day, Greg was talking about how he likes to apply labels to horses, because he thinks it helps us understand them better. About Sparky he said (AND I QUOTE!), "You're right - he IS an asshole." I was also told, in no uncertain terms, that one of these days I was going to have "a knock-down, drag-out battle" with Sparky. Basically, it is all going to come down to respect... which the Sparkplug currently lacks.
Greg is most excellent at figuring out horses... and he nailed Sparky. Now this is probably really anthropomorphizing, but it's dead-on: Sparky is pretty much an arrogant jerk who is pretty full of himself. If he's ever unsure about something, it's almost as though he covers it up with attitude - "Oh, I didn't really want to jump that anyway." Basically, he's damn smart, and always looking for a way to keep himself entertained. And this makes me feel a bit better, because that's pretty much the conclusion at which I'd arrived... but I wasn't sure if I was just plain missing something. Nope, not missing anything. My horse is an asshole... but damn he's athletic!
And have no fear - more on the clinic will be forthcoming!