When the Weanling Becomes a Yearling

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January 1 is always a big horse day at my place. I greet the new year by going to the barn, giving each horse a good grooming and fresh clip job, and reminding him--and me--that's he's now a year older. With my oldsters, the eldest of whom is now 28, this process is pretty much just ceremonial. Except for a few more gray hairs from year to year, and perhaps a barely perceptible slowing of gaits, they don't change all that much. They certainly don't get any more or less broke, because they've been "as is" for a long time.

But it's different with Carson, the youngest horse in my barn. His life-span odometer turned over from Weanling to Yearling on January 1, and that's quite a big life change. Along with putting away his weanling halter, in favor of one yearling-sized, I also used the New Year's Day holiday to retire my baby-sized expectations of him. No, let me rephrase that: I used the holiday to retire my baby-sized expectations of ME where Carson is concerned.

It's now time for me to take him from pre-school to kindergarten. It's time, for instance, to extend his tie-up sessions from those of just a minute or two to longer periods, so he learns to accept that very important version of restraint as a confirmed and lifelong skill. It's time for him to go on walks beyond sight and sound of the other horses, to further his independence, and to move from the quiet area at the back of the barn to the busier-action one up in the front. It's time for him to learn how to load in and unload from the trailer, even if he doesn't have anywhere yet to go, and to have his feet trimmed out in the aisleway like the veterans do, instead in the familiar confines of his stall. It's time for me to regard him more as an adolescent than as an infant. It's time for me to put Carson's name on the erasable daily training board, alongside that of Riley, the previous horse-kid who yesterday went from 3 to 4.

I don't know if this is a universal truth or not, but it's been my experience that when you expect a little more of a horse, you usually get a little more. But for that to happen, you have to put the horse in a new light.

So, bye-bye, Baby Carson. You're a big boy now.