Four and a half years ago, I got in a cart behind Rocky for the first time.
He’d been a rockstar (hehe) in his groundwork and I was so confident in him that I did it without a header. He was just a long two year old, so I didn’t overdo anything. I got in, asked him to walk in a small circle each direction, then I got out. The goal was simply to give him the idea, before he was turned out for the winter to grow up some more.
Last fall, he finally gained enough strength and confidence to reliably trot in harness. Four years after that first hook. To be fair to him, I wasn’t able to drive for a year and a half, but still. He simply wasn’t ready before that, so I didn’t push him. I listened to his concerns, I did what I could to help build his strength, his balance, his confidence, but I didn’t – ever – ask him to do anything he was worried about.
Last weekend, Rocky went to his very first competition, a driving trial.
In his very first dressage test, he scored 48.35, and the next day, on his second ever attempt, he scored 31.65, which was the best test of the whole competition. He went double clear in cones on both days (despite having never driven between a pair of standard sized cones before) and I was really impressed with his try in a very mucky, tough marathon. He racked up the time penalties, as I wasn’t willing to push him enough to stay on time in those conditions, and I withdrew from marathon the second day. For me, it wasn’t worth risking an injury, or damaging his confidence, and I feel pretty good about my decision, even if it meant he was eliminated. There will be lots of other chances to win ribbons, but not if he gets hurt.
I’m not sure I could be any happier with how he handled everything, and with dressage always being my focus, I am very proud of those test scores. And after five years away from the sport, I don’t think there’s ever been anyone happier to drive a cones course than I was! We had such fun, even with a few spooks on course, and those double clears were equally exciting! He also did great in the hazards – even by the last one, where he was just so worn out, he was still enjoying the “where do we turn next!” game, and giving me a hint of the prelim competitor he’s going to be, and I think it won’t be long before we’re there!
Before and after the trial, we went for a visit with my best friend and her two little girls, which was a great test for Rocky’s temperament. He was brushed and petted and had dozens and dozens of handfuls of grass picked for him – enough that he decided he’d much rather eat his grass out of a tiny hand than pick it for himself. He gave a very first ride to the little one, and she even took the reins for a few minutes, and he was a perfect gentleman.
It was a great trip, even with Mother Nature’s contribution (and the corresponding discovery of leaks in my van) and I am really looking forward to our next outing! Though honestly, the driving trial was so much fun that I really had to talk myself into entering the Miniature Horse show that’s coming up next!
It took Rocky a while to get here, but I’m so glad I took the time he needed.