Today Dodger and I started out with Stacy Westfall’s clever, 5-cone, clover leaf pattern for learning shoulder control. He was doing great both ways, keeping a consistent distance around the cones. It’s spring so the weather changes every five minutes and thunder rolled in the distance as we concentrated, but Dodger didn’t care. We were doing great at the walk and I wanted to move it up to a trot, but before I did, I quickly reached into my jacket pocket to make sure the flap was over the top of the pocket to secure my keys. Just my hand brushing against the fabric of my pocket, however, was enough to cause Dodger to stop and turn his head as if a carrot was coming out (because that’s the pocket they come out of usually). I couldn’t believe he heard my hand go into the pocket and just laughed and had him start up again. But I had the thought, My, what great ears you have, Dodger!
As an aside…I’ve been so pleased with him lately during our rides because he’s been such a consistent, wonderful, willing participant. Mostly it’s become very apparent to me that the secret to Dodger having fun is for me to have fun first. He very willingly goes where the fun is.
With keys secured, I asked him to trot. He went right up into it, but lurched to a stop after a few steps. That’s not typical. Let’s try it again, buddy. “Trot.” Couple more steps, lurch to a stop. I turned around to see if he had to poop. That wasn’t it.
“What, Dodger?!?” Ears forward. Listening.
“Whaddyamean you can’t go?”
Now I hear it. Thunder’s a little closer.
“Alrighty then. Tell ya what. I’m going to believe you and just get off now.” He stood calmly while I got off and unhooked the reins from the bit to hook one end onto his halter instead. 30 seconds later, FLASH, kaBOOM! and hail starts pelting the metal roof. I looked at Dodger and he looked at me with the widest eyes and the question written all over his face, “Is this BAD?”
I had to laugh because he looked so concerned, but mostly I loved that he asked me. “No, we’re fine, Dodger. But I sure am impressed with your hearing! I’m so glad you told me it was coming! Thank you, buddy!”
We stood and watched the hail as the other horses in the barn tried to decide where the safest place to stand was–in the stall under the scary-loud metal roof or in their paddocks, out in the hail. There were a couple of times when it got really loud that Dodger just couldn’t contain himself and spun around me, but I could tell he wasn’t trying to leave, he just couldn’t help himself. The calmer I stood and more interested in the hail I became, the more willing he was to stand and watch if that’s what I wanted to do.
Our ride may have been cut short for today, but I loved seeing how far we’ve come together in other ways!