Tuesday. Oh Tuesday. It’s become my riding day at home since Dusty has agreed to leave work early and get Wyatt which allows me to head straight home and ride before dinner. It’s really nice.
This week could have been a disaster. In fact, I could probably write it up that way if I tried hard enough to focus on the crap moments. You know what though? It wasn’t a disaster. It was actually pretty flipping fantastic.
It started off terribly. The temps had dropped 20 degrees, I hadn’t worked him in exactly one week due to various excuses (sickness mostly but rain and farrier too), and all three horses had been lunatics in the field the last couple of days for no discernible reason.
He was nearly vibrating walking in and when Dusty and Wyatt came tearing out of the house to play with the dogs barking madly and Wyatt screaming in delight, well poor Doofus lost what little control he had. I hurriedly grabbed at the quick release on the cross tie as the whites began to show in his eye and he threatened to come apart at the seams. In the process my precious saddle hit the dirt and I just about lost it.
And a month ago this all would have translated to a tense hot mess of a ride. He would have shaked that head, curled behind the bit and cantered off to nowhere all while screaming for his friends. And I would have become tense and frustrated myself. Probably had some tears and or choice words about him and ended it by stomping back to the barn.
But not this time. This time I buckled down, forced the knot to release in my stomach and ride anyway. Even while I walked him to the arena to lunge and the thought “I’m going to die” ran through my head.
He lunged ok. A bit wild but listened promptly to all my transition requests and didn’t pull on the line one time. I could see him thinking about it but he didn’t and I was so proud of him for that.
When we returned to the arena fully tacked up, I felt the energy radiating off him and briefly questioned my life choices but you know what? As soon as I mounted he sighed into the work. It’s like he was waiting for something to do.
All antics stopped. Sure he was still a bit quick and reactive. Sure he tried to canter a few times when all I wanted was a trot but it was all acceptable given his high strung nature that night and not over top like in rides the preceding months.
I’ve found that working on the halt is a great warm up for him. The first time he always tries to blow through me and I have to get a bit more harsh in his mouth than I’d like to back up the halt aid. Then when I ask him to walk he shakes his head in annoyance at the pit stop. As I keep working on the halt eventually he blows out and will halt with only my seat and legs.
Once that happens I can get to the real work. Tuesday I started with leg yields on the straight and then into a 20 m circle. We are getting pretty darn good with the right bend. I’m really starting to get the feel for timing all my aides. A bend with the inside rein, pushing out with my inside leg while providing a slight squeeze on the outside rein to let him know I mean “over” and not “forward” and then a quickly applied outside leg to keep him moving and not stalling out. It works beautifully when I get the timing down.
The left is pretty meh mostly because my left leg still has Alzheimer’s and is pretty useless. I’m beginning to wonder if I had a stroke and didn’t know it. The difference in strength is almost embarrassing, but I’m working on it and I know it is me and not him.
In the past, when he has felt this energized I’ve gotten tense in the trot transition due to his propensity to shoot off like a rocket and ignore me. Or I avoid it and call it a day with walk work. Tuesday I forced myself to put away the past and do it.
The first time he started his annoying head shaking that let’s me know he wishes I’d go screw myself and let him be a wild horse galloping on the range. A half halt put him in his place though and I began work in the trot.
It wasn’t perfect. I let him veer off my planned path too many times, he tried to canter some and then eventually used a half halt as an excuse to halt.
But I worked through it, didn’t get emotional, didn’t let him bully me and after a much shorter time than usual he settled and we ended up having some really great work. I felt good enough to pop him over a jump as a reward before working on the canter.
The transitions are getting a lot better. Less rocket launch and more controlled which allows me to start the canter with control versus hanging on for dear life a few laps. He is getting more balance and more strength and able to canter slower and more deliberately which is way more enjoyable to ride.
My biggest issue in the canter at the moment is his decision to take all half halts as a true halt. I need to remember to add leg which is hard when I’m trying to use the half halt to slow but when I don’t he stops. I need to remember to use all my aids. It’s hard folks.
I got off him an hour later not feeling defeated as in rides past. I dismounted with elation. I rode. Really rode. I used my brain to work through things. He met me half way and came ready for work. Neither of us are perfect or advanced but we are growing as a pair finally and it is the best feeling. The future is getting brighter and brighter.