You know what I was trying to explain yesterday? Well, last night proved a good example.
It was cold. Extremely cold by SC standards with a nasty wind on top of it but I wanted to get a ride in before the five solid days of rain in the forecast. I didn’t really have much of a plan going in likely just continuing to get comfortable with his canter and transitions into and out of it.
I wasn’t even thinking as I brought everyone in for dinner and then threw Gem and Pete hay while I took H’Appy out to ride in the arena. He was perfectly fine until we entered and he looked around realizing they weren’t in sight.
It’s been a long time since I’ve left them inside while I rode and it didn’t even dawn on me it would be an issue. As he spun around the mounting block it quickly sunk in that I had my hands full.
After working a while to reinstall that standing still was not negotiable, I mounted up and we walked off. He was tense and felt ready to explode but I knew it was just being nervous out all alone in the world. I didn’t agree that he should feel that way, but I understood.
I forced myself to remain as calm as possible, making sure my weight was in my heels and my hips were open and allowing him to relax instead of getting tense and creating more tension in his back. One piece of advice I got a long, long time ago and stuck with me was that the rider and horse should always equal 10. When he comes out at a 2 I need to bring the energy in myself up to an 8. Last night he was already a 9, so mine needed to be a calm and quiet 1.
We walked. He cried out for his friends a few times. He curled behind the bit and shook his head. I thought about how to react and how to help him.
Circles. Bend. Square turns. Walking over ground poles. Halting a million times. Always keeping him moving. Always making him check in to see what we would do next.
It took a while but eventually he started to halt when I asked with a light squeeze on the reins. Lots of praise.
A while later he started to walk off again without a tantrum. Lots of praise.
A while later he lowered his head and relaxed.
It wasn’t the ride I had planned or really even wanted. I wanted to canter. I wanted to trot. More importantly though I wanted yet another positive experience to continue to build his trust in me. I wanted him to continue to learn that I’m fair and I’ll reward good behavior.
I’ll hop back on him again Friday after work. I haven’t decided yet if the horses will go in the barn or not. I need to work on him being able to ride all alone, but I also don’t want to blow his mind so I think I’ll leave them out and maybe try an every other ride situation.
I’d also love to trailer out to my old Trainer’s barn to string together some jumps in a small course. It would test his brain off property which is something I haven’t done since July, so hopefully I can squeeze that in between Dusty working Saturday and celebrating his birthday Sunday.