As I mentioned in my last post, I had a horse but no tack so I was only able to exercise him by lunging him. Turnout has been limited as the fields are pretty drowned by the constant rain, and also limited by the Christmas day/Boxing day exceptions to normal routine, so I have to count myself lucky that he’s not been an uncontrollable ball of energy.
I had given up on getting a saddle fitter out before the New Year, but received a phone call a few days ago saying someone could now come out to me. Yippee! But also very scary. As think I mentioned before, he’s a horse I’m going to have to “up my game” to be able to ride properly and I hadn’t had a chance to get on his back since I tried him before the purchase. I’d have to get on his back and ride, possibly in a number of different saddles to help assess the fit. I didn’t really know what to expect from him, myself, or the saddle fitter!
I got there early and groomed him and he was very calm. The saddle-fitter and her husband (assistant) turned up in a van full of goodies – a travelling tack shop. He had a look out at the van but wasn’t worried when she came in and started putting this and that on him to check the fit. He even continued to stand nicely when the clippers started up in the stable next door. He was so good that her husband said Drifter was exactly the kind of horse he wants for himself. Handily there was a saddle that fitted him very nicely without needing adjustments. We chose a bridle and bit, tacked him up and took him round to the school to test it all out. Drifter was very good, standing nicely at the mounting block and, mostly, understanding what I wanted from him. We didn’t go faster than a walk and had a few directional issues, but it was all very nice and the saddle seemed extremely comfortable for both of us.
1 small fortune later the saddler left (leaving her phone number for any questions and a promise to check the fit again free of charge next time she’s in the area as we expect him to put on a bit of weight) and I was on my own with my horse and my tack. So we went back into the school and did some exercise! After a bit of a walk warm-up we did a lot of walk/halt transitions to establish who was in charge and get him listening. It was not ideal that we were in the small outdoor school which is very boggy at one end at the moment, so we had a restricted area to work in, but we did OK. After a while we tried trot. His tendency in trot is to go rather too fast and I didn’t have a lot of strategy in place for dealing with this, so we went fast! Sometimes when I tried to ask him to come down to walk this was interpreted as a request for canter, but I have to say his steady canter is a lot easier for me to manage than his fast trot, so it wasn’t too concerning a misunderstanding! He did strike off on the wrong canter lead at one point but he seems to have enough brain to know he shouldn’t try to go round a corner in canter when he’s unbalanced and came back to trot as soon as he was asked.
So riding him alone for the first time was an adventure, not all of which went according to plan, but it was a basis to build on. The next day (yesterday) I had my first lesson on him. I got some useful pointers on steadying the trot, which seems like the first thing we need to get sorted out. My instructor advised that we don’t try to do any canter work for the moment, but concentrate on trot, which seems like a good idea. She also gave me the unwelcome news that Drifter doesn’t seem to like his new (expensive) bit. It’s actually a gentler bit than what we expect he’s used to, but he keeps chewing at it in an irritated manner. I’d noticed that but I thought it was just because it was new. I hope that he’s going to get used to it, as I could do without buying another new bit just now! If he doesn’t adjust to it I’ll have to change it, but as he’s only worn it twice its early days yet.
Well I need to stop writing and go and ride my horse!