We have been trucking right along pretty much hitting every goal I set right on schedule. Even when I thought "No way is he going to be ready for this show" or "Not sure if I will have him ready to ride by his third birthday." things always seemed to work out better than planned. I never felt like I was trying to make something happen. It just seemed to git. Now I we are hitting a phase where I feel what is best for my horse is to back off a bit.
He was a little over 16.1hh at the rump and 16hh and some change at the wither all winter. He filled out a bit and was even looking a bit porky the end of Jan when I had my first few rides. Then all the sudden I had a different horse (literally I had photos one week of a fatso and the next week I could see every rib). The barn owner said he was growing and I thought she was crazy because he didn't stick at any taller. Then I noticed that he can reach all the way over the top of the stall divider to bite Bre. A month ago he could only reach over to give her the stink eye. When we go for walks I barely have to duck when he swings his head over mine. His wither might not have been taller but he sure had been growing.
Tonight I put the stick on him (my fancy one with a level) and he is definitely 16.1hh at the shoulder. That means he has grown and inch since last July. An inch in eight months doesn't seem like much when foals grow inches in a month but at his age that is a huge amount. His back and neck are longer too. And I know that their legs aren't supposed to grow at this age but I SWEAR they have.
Even before this growth spurt I was rethinking my goals. I had hoped to start walk trot with him over the next month but it doesn't feel right. It isn't think I don't think we can, it is that I don't think we should. So far he has taken every new thing in stride. If he has gotten a little frustrated with something new he quickly figured it out and started having fun. His attention span and ability to focus seemed to be improving at the same rate I was adding new tasks. Moving from tolerating a rider to allowing a rider to give commands is a HUGE jump. It takes more mental focus because he has to listen to me with a million other visual stimuli stealing his attention. When I am on the ground at least he can see me. When I see the vacant "Ohhh other horses in the distance" gaze set in all I have to do is wave my hand in front of his face and he remembers I exist. On his back I can see him quickly forget I am even up there.
Taking his growth spurt and his attention span into account I have decided to back off on the riding for at least the next few months. Spring is a really hard time for horses to focus let alone a giant baby with the attention span of a toddler. I want his entry into the riding world to be fun, there will be plenty of time for battles down the road. Now is the time to just follow his lead. I don't want to ever look back and wonder if I pushed him too hard. I look at Bre often and wonder what she could have been had she been allowed to grow up. The growth plates in his legs won't seal for another year or two, his spine won't mature for another THREE years. That goes for every horse breed. Even those "fast maturing" quarter horses don't actually mature until they are at least six. This isn't a horse who will just be expected to plod along on the trails. I have high hopes for us and taking it easy as a three year old could mean the diference between a career ending injury as a six year old (Bre). Maybe all the pushing Bre recieved isn't what caused her problems but I will never know. At least this time around I won't have that doubt.
I still plan on getting on and off him over the new fews months but nothing more on the riding front. He gets his teeth done in two weeks so I will feel better about ground driving some with the bit. Once the weather is nicer and the spring crazies subside it will be good timing to start trotting a little. I am not going to be that owner who has a six year old who is green broke. I still have goals and a plan. In the sport of horses we just need to make sure they have input into that plan. Right now Dickie is saying "Slow down mom, lets play more!!"