Last night I rode three after work, and this time of year, that means the last horse has to do the Helen Keller Save The Mommy thing. (As in, it’s dark by the third horse). I still managed to jump 6-7 jumps and work on landing a bit softer to get less tense lead changes out of Rugby. Lucky hacked in the ring very VERY satisfactorily. Indy lunged and rode with work on simple halts on the bit, a little more in front of the leg, and insisting on a bit quicker reaction to half halts, but that sounds like a lot — actually I accomplished most of those three tasks just at the walk around the ring a few times. One doesn’t actually have to work the dogshit out of a horse to school them. Sometimes when it is hot and muggy and the horse flies are dive-bombing you, you’re doing well just to keep their attention a bit longer with each loop of the ring!
Lucky likes to look around and he’s pretty tall and has a nice long neck — so when he giraffes it, he sees what he wants. I allow some processing with him — this is pretty new to a horse that has been stabled over half his short life so far. However, he’s well traveled (gosh, he’s been places I haven’t even been to, like Louisana) so I allow a little of this but am working harder on keeping his attention.
Like most horses off the track, he steers rudimentally. There’s no bend (yet) and not much straightness. Corners in my small ring are a bit breathtaking on him, you feel as though you have to hinge the hatrack in the middle to get it through the turn….then he hits the straight side and we’re back good again. He is learning that he can untrack himself, and most of all, I am praising and rewarding with every stretch down he tries. I remember something I heard from Clinton Anderson at the Maryland Horse World Expo a couple of years ago — “most amateurs don’t recognize the ‘try’ ” — and one always has to be careful to be sensitive to when a Thoroughbred asks to do the right thing. It may just a little tiny dip of the poll, where he’s seeking what to do with the bit — and you have to be secure in your position and sensitive enough in your hand to allow the bitty stretch he’s seeking. If you reward when he tries, he’ll try again. I pet and talk to my horses during rides, and I need to remember to talk more. I often whisper, too, or speak lowly because I like to hear their ears flick back when I talk very softly. I know they can hear me when no one else can. So we share secrets with each other. Every day.