Wilbur is a 3-year-old 17H Belgian Warmblood Colt or I suppose, he would be considered a stallion now. He will always be my little baby, even though he is now huge. His “real” name is Diamant d’Heure ABF and he is 2nd generation AliBoo Farm. He gets his funny nickname because his dam’s barn name is Pig; she came out of the womb eating. Originally, we thought Wilbur was a filly and his name was going to be Charlotte; he is definitely not a filly though. His dam was our second foal born here at AliBoo Farm and she is out of a Lord Incipit x Caletto I mare (my first jumper, Viva la Rose) and by Rio Grande. Wilbur’s sire is the famous French stallion Diamant d’Semilly; you might have guessed that by his name. Diamant d’Semilly has countless offspring who have competed internationally. Wilbur is like a little kid in a giant’s body. When you look at him you think he is so grown up and mature looking; then when you really meet him you understand he is still just a baby.
Wilbur is a ham bone. He is the funniest baby ever. Every day he makes me laugh because around 1-2 in the afternoon you hear this snoring noise come from the other side of the barn; he loves his afternoon siestas and never misses them. He stretches flat out across his stall and loves to sleep while snoring. It is so funny. He also loves toys, and is scared of nothing. We bought him one of those Jolly Sidekicks and he started playing with it immediately. When it fell over you could just see this look of wretchedness on his face because he thought his friend was dead. He is so big he just doesn’t realize how hard he is playing. The other day I was riding him for about the third time and when I put the saddle pad on he just turned his head around and looked at me. You could just tell he was saying, “again, really.”
I said when I first started ground working him last November that he would be my biggest challenge that if I “accomplished” would then be my biggest reward. He is never mean in what he does, he doesn’t bite or kick, he just would use his size to try to push you around and not make him work. When you asked him to walk next to you and then stop, he would stop 2 steps later. Asking him to back was like asking a wall to move, he just did not want to and he was confused about what I was asking. Now all you have to do is turn and look at him and say back and he is 5 steps back before you know what happened. When we moved on to lunging he had no problem about walking around in a circle but he had to learn how to stop. I remember the first time I asked him to canter he cantered 1 time around and then decided ok we’re good, we can stop now. I then had to remind him he was not allowed to do the thinking unless we are on the same page. He really is a smart horse and learns quickly, it is just that he has to be told and then shown that he is going to have to do what you say. After 1 month of continuous groundwork 3 times a week, he was the best horse to work with and so responsive. Even outside of the ring he became a much better horse to handle and be around because he was finally learning manners; being tired also helped.
After his month and a half of groundwork I sat on him one time before giving him 3 months off. I personally think this is good for the young horses because they need time to process what they learned and to keep growing. So just a few weeks ago, I put him back to work and I started with 4 days the first week going over what we had learned last year. It was so nice to see that he really remembered everything and we could move on to the under saddle phase of his education. The first day I actually rode him around at the walk was a comic show. Like before he did not try anything mean but he would not steer, in fact he would try to go the opposite way I wanted and then he would lift all four legs off the ground and round his back to try to get me off him. Luckily for me, he is like a big couch and so I just kept urging him forward and attempting to steer (or pull) him where I wanted to go. Determination pays off and by the fourth time I rode him he really pulled it together and was walking/trotting around the ring in a forward motion while circling and crossing the diagonal line.
As the old saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” He has the most expressive eyes of any horse I have ever met. You can see his happiness, his worries, his anger and his playfulness in them depending upon the mood he is in. When I first started working him this is what I noticed so quickly. When I would ask him to do something and he didn’t do it right away most people would put it down to attitude; but you really could see in his eyes the confusion and worry that he felt. It just really helped to remind me that he needed gentle, firm guidance (if that makes any sense) and to be patient with him.
It is hard not to love Wilbur, as he is drop dead gorgeous, moves beautifully, and is insanely athletic when free jumping. He may annoy the heck out of me at times but then he learns how to do what you are asking and I fall even more in love with him. I cannot wait to continue the journey with him and see where it leads us.