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Having spent much of the last ten years riding the same horse that I knew back-to-front, this whole new horse thing is throwing me for a loop. There wasn't a thing about Dancer I didn't know, from her under-saddle quirks to when she'd spook to the best way to get electrolytes in her to how to get her not to kill the farrier. She was 14 hands of awesome, a mirror of me in a lot of ways.

But now, I've got a big, goofy grey beast that I have to learn from the ground up, and that's a challenge. So, in no particular order, here are ten things I've learned about my horse so far.

1) He is extremely curious to the point of occasional irritation. Oh, were you wearing that hat in near zero temps? Not anymore, someone needs to play with it. New helmet? Let me lick it. Nice boots! Let's bite them. Overall, though, it's really awesome because he's more apt to check something out that run from it.

2) He seems willing to eat almost anything, and doesn't get annoyed if I add tons of water to his feed. Some horses get weird about that, but he's not one of them. New supplements, electrolytes, meds, nothing seems to really bother him and he sucks it all down with slow, methodical accuracy. Except my homemade treats. He spit the apple spice ones back after eating one and refused to even consume a sugar cookie on Christmas. Ok, horse. I'm not offended or anything.

3) Java is not the kind of horse you can walk behind and lay all over. He has an opinion about his back end and, while usually polite, occasionally cow kicks air to let you know he has some things to say. The farrier gets a kick out of this, pun completely not intended. I imagine it would be less funny if a) I didn't correct him and b) he actually made contact. Last check, though, he's being super good about people and horses all around him, but it's something I'm aware of.

4) There is a lot of energy in this guy, and the sooner he gets to work on his job, the better. When he was at home and in his stall, he would pull things off the front of the stall and toss them around to play, broke two light bulbs and a cover, took down fences to go gallivanting, and chewed a bridle rack flat just for good measure. Now that he's in training 5 days a week and out with a bunch of boys to play, he's much more at ease.

5) He is almost always happy to see me. I don't know if it's the curiosity coming into play, but he is down to come check out what's going on almost every time I see him. Arguably even more so now, which is weird because he's not getting hand-fed treats (or really, any).

6) This sucker is big. Not in a traditional sense, since he's not really 15.2, but in a personality and carriage sense. Java stands UP to look at things. He walks with absolute purpose (unless I start looking down and get us stuck), and is super outgoing, so he's always the first in your face if something worth seeing is happening. And to him, it's all worth seeing.

7) Java reads me better than anyone I know. I've learned so much about my riding, how I contain stress, and what I have to work on in the last few months of riding him. Every single thing I do telegraphs right into him, and he feeds it back in equal or greater measure. That's the Arabian in him; they build them hyper-sensitive. He wants me to be confident and in charge, and I can tell by how he's acting what I'm doing wrong. AKA, it's always me.

8) There aren't enough things and people and horses in the world to play with. He would play all day long if he could, and now that he lives with a group of boys, I'm pretty sure he does. Next step: teach him to play fetch!

9) Java is crazy flexible. I call him the Pretzel Horse because of the crazy contortions he does. He does down-dog when he gets up from a nap. When he's on crossties and if you're not brushing properly, he will turn around and help you itch. He can reach his croup easily; almost anywhere on his back he can touch. Hoofpicking is a group project, since he needs to watch what you're doing, and he's got the incredibly impressive skill of standing on two legs pretty solidly if the mood strikes. Hands down, though, casually itching his face and ears with a hind foot is my favorite.

The Pretzel Horse at work. I need to up my yoga game.

What are some quirks you found out about your new horse? Did you notice an adjustment period, too, or is it just me, since I've ridden one horse for years?

#java #newhorse #justjavathings

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