As this has turned into a very D centric blog, it seems only right that I update on him and his reaction before launching into the full holiday stuff (also this post is probably going to be shorter and quicker to write!)
As D is on full livery there was no need for any change to his daily routines of food, muck out, turn out etc., and in truth there was no concrete need to have him ridden while I was away as he would be turned out every night, weather permitting, but as it would be almost a fortnight and the English weather is unpredictable so I couldn’t rely on him going out I felt happier to know he would continue to work under saddle. I had hoped to have him jumped but it turned out it was not convenient for them to get jumps out on the days I requested he be ridden. Sigh.
They were keen to hack him. I vetoed this as I’d worry more about him while I was away if I knew he was going out on the roads. So he was schooled four times.
I got back yesterday in time to fit in a little ride and listen to Drifter. Horses may not speak but they still give pretty good feedback on what goes on when their owners aren’t around!
Drifter said his girthing had not been respectful and slow. He said this by expanding until his girth didn’t fit when I attempted to put it on. He hasn’t been this bad since the first few months I had him. He is a prodigious expander and can increase by about 30 cm like this. I think there is sometimes a perception among horsepeople that a horse doing this is being naughty. Perhaps that is true of others but with mine it means he’s afraid of the girth, and telling him off for bracing like this will only make him more fearful.
I’m sure he’ll remember to trust me quite soon and I’m sure the way the staff girthed him was acceptable for the average horse, but he is not the average horse, he is my quirky little boy. 😉 It’s just one of those things.
He had a similar attitude to opening his mouth for the bit. Even with my thumb well into his mouth he was very resistant to opening it. From his reaction once I had it on, he was surprised that I didn’t do the noseband super tight and whack the flash on right away, so then he calmed down. Sigh again. I know that doing everything really tightly gives the rider more control, but it’s just not necessary with this horse. I treat the flash not as a “tie it shut as tight as you can so he can’t possibly open his mouth” but as a reminder to him that his mouth is not supposed to gape open to evade all bit action. He can open it a little, but not too much. I hope that might help him to learn to keep it shut of his own accord, although that might be wishful thinking. I know people think I should use my flash tighter but the way I have it works for us.
We tacked up – my way – and I took him round to the school and got on. He stood nicely at the block even once I was on. Oh thank you staff for working on this with him! I’ve always had problems with this and don’t spend the effort training him to do better that I ought to. Of course they would have got on and found the stirrups the wrong length and needed him to stand while they sorted it out. Now that he’s had this crash course from them in standing still maybe I can keep working at it so that he doesn’t relapse into walking off as soon as anyone sits on his back.
In the past when I’ve had him schooled I’ve got on and immediately felt he was going better, but that didn’t really happen this time.
And then I realised: I’ve not had him schooled since before Christmas, before the first Lee Pearson lesson. Since then, I’ve learned to school my own horse. There’s no longer an ocean of difference between the way I ride him and the way the staff ride him. Everyone asks him to be soft and round. Everyone asks him to bend. They ask with more strength and experience and insistence than I do, but I’ve improved so much that it’s stopped that “Ooh-suddenly-I-have-a-horse-that-goes-on-the-bit” feeling I used to get when I rode after them.
So I stopped being disappointed.
I found they’d worked well on his left bend, which he struggles with and so do I. When things aren’t going as I’d like and I get tense, my left leg and hip take the worst of my tension, so they can’t be as effective. During my holiday, when I relaxed, I became more aware of this and mindful that it was a contributor to our left bend issues and that I should work on it. So he’d been working with a nice left bend and I’d been thinking about how to ask for it and together we did very well indeed.
I was really pleased with the work they’d done with him on that.
On the other hand the canter wasn’t so good. He seemed more worried about cantering than is usual even for him. I would surmise that he’d done a lot of work on cantering slowly (i.e. at a normal horse’s pace, not a rocket ship’s) and found it very hard going, and I suspect they’d not much worked on transitions. But it will have been good strengthening work and we can work on the confidence now I’m back.
This morning we went on a hack and followed it up with a bath. It was good. We trotted a lot to try to keep away from the flies. Previously I’ve been scared to trot much on the roads because of the percussive impact on his legs. But I know lots of horses are trotted on roads and today it seemed that it would greatly improve the quality of our ride, so we did it, and enjoyed our ride much more for it. Trot is his favourite gait after all!
While I was bathing him I got a chance to speak to one of the staff members who rode him. She said they’d all been impressed with how nice he was to ride now – how I’d brought him on.
Oh, did I say that aloud 😉
I think that confirms what I’d already thought, that I am definitely “doing schooling” and he is definitely improving.
I feel bad for Drifter that I went away and left him. I feel bad that he was tacked up with more efficiency and less kindness, but I’m afraid we all have to put up with things we don’t like and I can’t protect him from everything. When Mr S and I discussed my getting a horse, one of the conditions was that I would have to leave him and still go away on holiday as we would if we didn’t have him. Part of the package of belonging to me is that there will be times like this when I have to leave him. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I can’t wish I didn’t have my holiday. I came back to him refreshed and relaxed and ready to be a better rider rather than the run-down thing I was before my break. Life isn’t perfect and neither am I and I’m pretty sure Drifter knows that too.
Teaser holiday photo: