It poured all night Sunday to Monday and by morning it wasn’t looking any clearer. By 9:30am I was starting to think my morning lesson would be cancelled. I needn’t have worried though. Trainer is the best person I’ve ever met and once I verified that the footing was solid under the 3″ of standing water, she was game to come over and get drenched.
This is noteworthy because had it been with Gem I’d never have even thought of riding. The puddles would have made it impossible to get any actual work accomplished. But Eeyore is a different beast and after riding through a few puddles on Saturday I knew he’d be ok. Maybe not thrilled, but ok.
I was a bit nervous going in. Trainer had come over to meet Eeyore once before and had seen him crippled but never under saddle. Would she think he moved like a camel? Would she tell me I made a mistake? There was only one way to find out!
Eeyore didn’t disappoint. He never so much as batted an eye at the puddles. He quietly squealed his disapproval of being worked in the rain a time or two but other than that he went to work happily enough. In fact, he was the most energetic I had seen to date and even dolphin leaped into the canter the first time. No worries though. If that was his worst I’ll take it! I never once felt out of control or uneasy on him.
There were three main things I wanted eyes on the ground for and Trainer was on board to see where we were at with him. She is a very hard sell when it comes to horse partners so I was interested in getting her overall judgement too.
The first thing was his trot. Of course the rain, cooler temperatures and earlier hour had him much more energetic to start than my previous rides, but he is still Eeyore and I’m still me so cooler weather didn’t make him magically more forward or me less of a nag. She was impressed with his natural rhythm and inherently steady pace. Both things that will serve us well as we progress in our training. However she noticed that he tried to ooze back to the walk and caught me nagging quite frequently. In the end she told me to be crisper with my ask, more proactive with asking for more before he starts to slow and then letting him be able to maintain it. It helped and prevented him getting annoyed. All in all though she thought the pace of his trot was just fine for the majority of our work.
The second item to cross off was his obstinate refusal to bend left when we hit the barn side of the arena and thus headed away from the gate. Which is odd since he didn’t do that going right. Again, laser eyed Trainer honed in on the issue. Me. Shocking I know.
I’ll back up a tad for this one. Gem hated my leg even thinking of touching her side. It forced me to ride with a too forward lower leg and absolutely no leg aides. Eeyore though needs those aides to keep his body in line. Thankfully Trainer never once told me I needed to bring my leg back under me so win for that! The position nazi had nothing but good things to say. However, since I’m not used to using leg aides I sorta dropped the ball.
Eeyore is responsive to my left leg and dull to the right. This results in him blowing through my right leg aid. On a left hand circle it means his hindquarters bulge out and we lose our geometry. On a right hand bend it means he circles in making the circle teeny tiny. I really needed to be firmer with my right leg, set him up way earlier than I thought and keep that inside rein still. The moment I went to bend via the inside rein all it did was let his hind end slip out to the outside and make matters worse.
She recommended that I set up cones to mark a circle and then work on staying on the inside then the outside of them to really focus on controlling this.
The last item was his head. For the first 40 minute he was light in the bridle, offered up some really lovely low stretching and elevated his back. Then he got tired and decided that real work is hard and he couldn’t hold his head up at all. His chin was dragging on the ground.
Having never dealt with this before, Gem is a natural giraffe, I was clueless what to do though I suspected the answer was more leg, more forward. I was right and wrong. Yes he needed a cue to move his lazy butt. He also needed me to hold my core, bring my darn elbows back to my side and loosen them and refuse to get tugged on. This was hard. Very hard. My core was yelling obscenities at me and my shoulders weren’t far off.
We livened him back up with canter both directions which worked for a while but he quickly remembered he was tired and couldn’t horse any more. It was a rough last 15 minutes but I think we both started to improve by the end. Trainer plans to hop on him on Thursday to get a good feel and figure out some tricks for me.
Her end analysis? He is mostly a good boy who wants to do the right thing. Until he gets tired and then he quits. She saw his worst behavior I’d ever seen and it was laughable. She thinks he is a good match for me and we have some work to do but it should get there in time. He isn’t going to let me get away with being lazy but won’t punish my mistakes either. Exactly what I was looking for.
If it ever stops raining, 10 day forecast says rain at above 60% chance every day, the plan is to do another flat school at her place to judge how he does away from home plus have her get on him, then do some jump schools and mid summer hit up a cross country course.
The best part? Even soaking wet and covered in mud I walked in the house with a big grin on my face and a hankering to ride again. It’s an unbeatable feeling.