The four horsies in training have been ticking over quite nicely.
In fact, for some of them, that’s probably an understatement. Emmy went from accepting tack to going on the lines quickly. During her first session on the long lines I thought she might be going to kill me since she spent quite a lot of time head flipping, running back and threatening to rear. In the next session, though, I saw sense and swapped my favourite backing bit for the thinnest little French link I have and the problem was mostly solved. Most babies like the fat single joint full cheek, but thoroughbreds and their small mouths would have to be different.
She still head-flipped a tiny bit, but I suspect that her teeth want to be seen to, and they will when my dentist comes again. So it wasn’t long before I was sitting on her,
and then riding around. She had been ridden on the track about seven years ago, so as expected she didn’t mind me being up there, but she had kind of forgotten what aids were, so it took a little while to get her confident and relaxed in walk. But soon we progressed to the big arena in walk and trot.
She does like to fall in quite dramatically on the right rein. I strongly suspect an issue with a left tooth, so I don’t make too much of a scene about it, but it’s already much improved compared to this photo from her first ride. Even the head-flipping is much better, probably because I ride my babies on little or no contact and she’s starting to trust my hand not to hurt whatever it is that’s hurting in there. I won’t be putting this on the bit until we’ve sorted it out.
For now we’re walking and trotting figures in the dressage and had three or four steps of canter in our last session, so I’m pretty happy.
Champagne has been drawing shapes in the sand – even on the spooky end, which seems to be no longer spooky. We had to avoid it the other day because our oldest cow, Fiona, was lying right next to the arena fence, chewing cud and swishing her tail and making little Fiona noises, and Champagne just didn’t deal that day. Otherwise, she pretty much goes like a normal young horse now.
She is doing our in-house show next Saturday, so we’re putting some work into really schooling her now that the worst of the remedial stuff is out of the way. Her bend now matches left and right and since her teeth were done she’s a lot better about taking my left rein, so connection is better too. She struggles with all canter transitions, though, particularly right. She doesn’t buck through them anymore unless she’s very fresh, but on the right she struggles to get the lead, and the first few canter steps are generally rushing, tense and hollow. This has improved as her bend improved, and we were able to try a few changes through trot, but I don’t expect them to be great at the show.
I don’t really know what to expect from the show. I think she may be quite spooky of the new things next to the arena, like the judge’s gazebo, but I think as long as I stay calm we can work through it. Since it’s my show I can also show her the spooky things before having to ride her and schedule her time for when it’s quietest, so that’s rather a plus.
Titan also finally got over his nerves with the saddle and graduated to the long lines. Like most unspoilt youngsters, he handled these with aplomb and quickly learned all the aids, including halt from any gait. I don’t get clean halts from canter, obviously, but for me it’s just about knowing that whoa means whoa forever and always.
Somewhere between accepting the saddle and long lining, he also finally relaxed about – well, everything. One day he came into work and he was just totally chill and pleasant to be around, like he’d grown up overnight. He stood loose in the stable to tack up, he walked into the wash bay like an old hand, and he stood quietly when I had my first little sit on him. This has since become the norm, and it makes everything much more pleasant for both of us.
Yesterday we did the ride-from-the-ground exercise, and while he had a few moments of tension at first, he cottoned on very fast. Intelligent, willing horses are so easy when they quit panicking. So I hopped on and we did a few steps of rein back and a few steps forward. He was totally relaxed by the whole idea and much more concerned with staring at other horses in the field than with me on his back.
Antwone has been super. Three natural gaits made lunging fairly simple. He is very fresh since he only works once a week when I see him, but once we’ve gotten over the first five minutes of mad running, it didn’t take long to get the voice commands installed. He had one more colt moment where he thought maybe turning his bum on me would be a good idea and was very rapidly convinced otherwise.
So yesterday we moved on to the bridle. He was a bit of a pain to get it on, first because as colts do he was chewing the straps, and then because he put his nose in the air and with that fat little Friesian neck there was no way I was making it come down – highly embarrassing at somebody else’s yard – but once it went on he accepted it pretty quickly. He’s good to lunge in three gaits now (except he can’t really canter left in their smaller ring yet, but it’s like 8-10m so I don’t expect him to) so hopefully his people can put in some lunging and make all our lives easier.
Savanna has been back on track again. She was getting very much against my hand, both in the contact for connection and when I ask for whoa. Now I know technically I should school her to be more off my seat, but let’s be real. It’s a kid horse, it needs to stop when you pull the reins, the first time, every time. So I employed a pulley rein every time she wanted to rush or ignore my light whoa; if this was right before or over a fence then so be it. She can’t run at fences with her kid. This worked well, and yesterday she and her kid cantered quiet circles over a fairly big fence (for them) without any mad running at all.
For the pulling I was getting in response to asking for connection, I used a trick I learned from Coach K and held the numnah with my outside hand alongside the rein. This anchored my hand in place, so stopping me from pulling back, but also making it harder for her to pull forward. It kills the forearms but by the end she decided that not pulling was just a much easier option.
We also have grazing for some of the horses at last, which makes my heart very happy. If we’re honest, it’s mostly (non-harmful) weeds, but they’re ponies, they like weeds. Lulu and Trooper have already visibly gained weight after a week in the grazing. Thanks to the abundant provision of rain, a gift straight from the Hand of God.
Glory to the King.