Wednesday I decided to teach TJ and work our circles. We warmed up with his lateral flexion exercises on both sides. Most horses- or at least Apache- maintains resistance on the rein until they realize that your hand is stationary, then they give to the pressure. TJ surprised me by following my hand with the slightest guidance until I reached his side- no resistance. Then he waited patiently with the rein looped until I dropped it before returning to a neutral position. I then asked him to yield his haunches; he only had to get to the “step into his space/kiss” stage and he swung his haunches 180. While I am glad that he is exuberant in his responses, I hope to get him to be less reactionary- you know what I mean?
So, I jumped on… well, I actually found a bucket to stand on and then mounted like a regular adult human. I can swing on up top Apache from the ground but I am not as limber as I once was- and 16 hands is a little tall. TJ instantly wants to set off at a business-like walk, neck arched and everything. One of my biggest pet peeves (I have many) is horse that walks off IMMEDIATELY after you’re on. I ease onto their back, take my time to adjust my position, maybe tighten the girth while I’m up there, before I gather my reins and ask to go. We had a discussion about waiting until I said to go. I was very patient, he doesn’t know. This is day 6 of us even knowing each other and I cannot expect him to memorize all my standards. Apache on the other hand would get a severe warning if he got fidgety while I’m mounting. But he’s known this rule for eleven years.
I walk TJ off once he stood calmly for 15 seconds and I swear I was riding a drunk pony. We could not track straight to save our lives. I stayed out of his face as much as possible, but he would over correct himself with my leg pressure or else not respond at all- he still doesn’t quite grasp leg communication means other things besides faster. But we managed to tool around the arena. I then re-introduced serpentines- every other S-bend becoming a 15m circle. I was very proud that he was at least trying to cross underneath himself and make a circle instead of an octagon. Sure, at times he would over bend, but that’s my fault for being too direct-reiny. My trainer- who is by far one of the best people alive for putting up with me for over a decade- always chewed my butt about not using my indirect rein enough/correctly.
We switched to 20m circle work at a walk and trot. I have to actively cognate correcting my shitty outside rein because when I did use my outside rein correctly to balance him, TJ was successful at his circles. Now he gets the concept of what I am asking, I have to keep up my bargain and not fall into bad habits and short cuts that Apache adapted to. I want TJ to be taught right, and for that I need to really get my *ish together! In spite of my rider-faults TJ improved greatly since we worked on balanced circles the other day. A little rushy and inconsistent rhythm sometimes, but using himself well and listening carefully to my vocal directives and occasional half halt. I asked him to pick up his off-side (right lead) canter. He crow-hopped because I let him have two rushy trot strides that threw of his balance. I brought him back for two circles to reestablish the pace, sat deep in my saddle, lifted my inside rein, pressure with my outside calf… and kissed… We rolled up into a gorgeously smooth canter. Even though he was strung out and a little wonky, he had a canter that I could sit all day. I was so excited! I brought him down and gave him some love.
I took him outside to cool off, as the wind was soft and not too cold. I do not know for sure how long it has been/if ever he was ridden outside. I directed him up the driveway to the house. He marched forward, looking around a lot but relaxed. He attempted to veer off course to go the barn, but after a few firm no’s he got the jist. At the top of the drive I turned him toward home… and we practiced standing still. TJ was not happy about that. We pranced. We tried backing. We went all directions except up and down- which I am totally fine with! We finally stood still after 5 minutes or so of testing, I waited 10 seconds and we walked down toward the barn again. Before repeating the exercise 3 more times. I was please to find he moderated his pace very well as we walked back to the barn each time. I didn’t have my reins as loose as I like (usually on the buckle), I admit I was riding defensively. I still don’t trust TJ yet and probably won’t until we have a few more mutual experiences. 🙂
After I hopped off, all TJ wanted was for his forehead to be rubbed and his head cuddled. I have never had a horse who craves reassurance/affection as much as this horse. Apache likes attention, but on his terms and he has a quota of how much physical contact he wants- like a cat. But TJ seems to be the kind of horse who lives to be loved on. I wonder if that is an Arab thing? I have only known two other pure Arabians in my life and they all seemed to be huge lovers too?