In the interestingly ironic and yet predictable way that life works, I made the same mistake with H’Appy as I did with Gem that I swore I would not do.
Namely, I ignored the fact that we didn’t know each other and jumped in head first only to land on that head in short order, figuratively speaking.
With Gem, I was bold, brave and stupid. She was green, lacked confidence and intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, tears and declarations of a sale that never happened. Things didn’t improve with her until I moved to WI, had her in my back yard and was forced to slow way down due to 90+ hour work weeks and no sleep.
When I unloaded H’Appy I was timid, cautious and a lot smarter. He was bold, brave and wicked intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, a few tears and a declaration of a sale a time or two. Thankfully I’m extremely stubborn and hate giving up, so he is still with me.
The thing is that even promising myself I wouldn’t push things too fast, I still did. Here I was with this new orange horse who I paid way too much money for and I felt this internal pressure to now do all the things with him. I bought him specifically to do all the things, he was purported to be able to do the things, and I had a bit of a need to prove to myself that some issues were truly a Gem issue and that I wasn’t the worlds worst rider.
So I pushed this new to me horse in a new to him environment to do things. It didn’t go very well.
I’m a slow learner, but I can learn and so right now as we get back under saddle and moving forward again, I’m taking all the pressure I have placed on us off.
I’m riding as able and working on what feels right to me in the moment. Some days that is jumping. Others it is simply walking with a few trot transitions thrown in. If he is listening well and calm, I canter. If he isn’t, we walk and halt and work on square turns and halting off my seat.
I want him to learn that I am fair, predictable in my requests yet persistent and a voice that can’t be tuned out. I want him to trust me not to get himself killed and I want him to continue to be bold and brave, two characteristics that made me choose him over others.
It means a lot of small rides with small questions scattered with bigger demands and higher standards.
To that point I went to ride Friday afternoon and found a compliant gelding in my cross ties. He had new shoes put on Thursday and I’ve learned to give him bute in his dinner the day the farrier comes to help with any soreness from the procedure. Of note, farrier is much happier with the status of his feet these days and thinks we may get him out of pads eventually.
I had one thing I wanted to really work on: the backside of the fence. You see, I have this annoying habit of being so insanely happy to just get over a fence that I celebrate and throw riding right out the window as soon as we get over. When I jumped earlier in the week, I found myself careening around the arena going nowhere and I thought “hmmm…maybe I should do something about that”
So Friday I kept the small cross rail and added a single ground pole 180 degrees opposite of it on the rail. I wanted to trot over the jump and the pole and by adding this I not only had something to aim for (helping my lack of steering) but also something to make me come back to a trot.
H’Appy was feeling good and argued that cantering was both more fun and easier than trotting politely. This translated to more work for him but that’s his fault. After warming up using the arena at large, I started going right taking the crossrail at the trot, cantering away keeping my eyes on the ground pole, bringing him to a trot before it, trotting over, trotting to the crossrail and repeating. They were far enough apart to be taken straight and then bending after versus creating a circle including both elements.
Or at least that is what I tried to do. He thought launching over the ground pole and trying to fly off into the distance was a better plan.
It took a while but eventually he was trotting the pole and the crossrail going right. His canter felt so amazing though that I let him canter the exercise a time or two before taking a walk break and switching directions.
Guys, that was the first time I cantered a fence with him. It felt AMAZING! That’s a whole other post though because I have a lot to say about it.
Going back to the left was once again a discussion that we can’t rush to the good part and canter the entire thing. It took a long while to get him trotting it and once we had it down I trotted around three times and called it quits.
He was starting to get that horse sweat smell and was breathing pretty hard at this point so it was the perfect time to end it. I gave him a ton of praise as we walked back to the barn.
It was super fun and rewarding. I’m learning to be a lot more strict with him and planning ahead really helps that. I don’t want to drill him with the exercise but I think the idea of it is something we will continue to work on for a while to help us both out.
I also think that while I’m missing having lessons, for right now I’m not going to sign up for any. For one, chubby wouldn’t be able to handle an hour long session right now at his fitness level and I don’t want to cause injury or stress by asking him to do something he isn’t physically prepared for. I’m also liking having the ability to adjust on my own per how we are both feeling. This ensures a positive outcome versus riding with someone who wants us to do x even though we just aren’t able that day.
I’m really starting to enjoy this orange beastie of mine and looking forward to the future.