This afternoon, a glorious 65 degree sunny afternoon, I rushed home from work so I could squeeze in a ride before the sun went down. Mom kindly offered to pick up Carson from daycare, so I had those precious extra fifteen minutes to spare–a luxury when you have an hour long commute and daylight savings time. I saddled a rather reluctant Johnny (hey, lady, I was here waiting on dinner!) and we walked off toward the neighbor’s pasture. We have about a mile ride down and up two rather large (and quite long) hills on a dirt road before we get to our destination. This provides ample warm-up time and good conditioning workouts before we get to our main event. Monday, I had set up a gymnastic grid to help Johnny relearn his jumping basics. The grid was simple: four trot rails to a small crossrail. We didn’t finish perfectly, but ended on a good note. So, today, I expected the same results at first. However, my goal was to stay completely out of his way and let him figure it out on his own. The result? I got a nice, balanced trot with no rushing and a smooth jump over the crossrail. I gave him a big pat on the neck and a huge, “GOOD BOY!” for his effort. We jumped the line one more time before I jumped off to raise the height. I raised the crossrail height a bit and added a 2′ vertical one stride later. This time, he returned to his old antics and rushed through, rubbing the vertical rail (though not knocking it down). I still gave him a pat on the neck and applauded his effort, but I told him he could do better. We tried it again. This time, he gave me a better trot in and a smoother jump. He got a big pat on the neck, and a huge, “GOOD BOY!” again. Well, apparently, that’s what he was looking for. On our third go, he let loose with a big, swinging trot, a quiet hop over the crossrail, and a beautiful bascule (okay, I couldn’t see it, but I promise it was there) over the vertical. I knew one more attempt could either backfire or further build his confidence, so I went for it. And, our fourth time through did the trick. Johnny all but swaggered out of the pasture–back swinging, ears perked, and a big, confident stride. It was that moment I realized that my guy was like any other male–he just needed his ego stroked! I realized he just needed a confidence boost to figure out he was capable of doing what I asked of him. So, ladies, be sure to give your man a big pat and tell him “GOOD BOY!” the next time he remembers to put that toilet seat down. After all, they just need a good ego stroke every once in awhile.