Saturday, I put ride #10 on Fridge. It was our second ride in the big pen (read- outside the round pen, but still in the barn), and his second time in a snaffle. Because I have trouble “letting go” I haven’t ridden him much in a bit, because I un-intentionally inhibit his forward progress. I’m so concerned about where he goes, that I forget to allow him to go. And I don’t want to create another horse with sticky feet. They’ve got to be going before you can shape the movement. As has been the norm on the weekends, there were friends/neighbors over riding in the barn too. And Zach came up to help me. Basically, I just want his moral support and confidence, so I can borrow it from him while he’s there. I had trouble getting Fridge’s feet unstuck while I moved him out in the round-pen to start the day. He was preparing to kick at me, because I lacked the conviction. So Zach helped move him through some transitions while riding his saddle horse. This conviction has to come from “inside”. I know this. I just have to believe it.
I climbed aboard, and Zach flagged me from his horse. We disengaged the hips, and brought the shoulders through. I asked for a trot here and there and he said, “you know, there’s no reason why you can go ride him around in the big pen.”
So I did. And then he said, if you’re going to offer him the quality with that snaffle that you’re giving him with the halter, put the snaffle on him. We rode round and round the big pen, walking, trotting, loping, both ways. I learned that even something as small as putting my hand in “neutral” and “letting go” made all the difference. As we made our first trip around the pen to the left, I had asked him to trot (we were hooking on to Dozer – Zach’s horse – at first) and as we came around the corner, I tried to guide him. And we didn’t make it to the trot. Zach said, put your hand in neutral, give him his head and ask again.
Between moving out, I did a lot of lateral flexions, and rolled the hips, then brought the shoulders through, working on hooking the reins to the feet. While I know that timing, feel and balance all contribute to the success you’ll have with this drill, it never ceases to amaze me that when you set it up, time up and get it right, it just happens.
Which only goes to show us that it’s all on us to communicate to the horse what we want. We have to pay enough attention to where the feet are (ALL OF THEM) when we ask for something to get the best result. It’s why Buck can do with a 10, 15, or 25 ride colt what it might take others 60 days or more.
So I learned a couple more things on Saturday –
1. I don’t utilize “neutral” enough.
2. Once the horse makes it the direction I want to go – or the direction he’s set up to go – go back to neutral.
It was by far the best ride I’ve ever had on a colt. He was completely confident, and there was never a moment where I felt unsure. I’m going to hold on to that feeling, so that this week when I’m on my own with him, I can draw from that positive place. That ride was a ride I’ve envisioned having for a while – but I didn’t believe I could have it. And therein lies the difference. My face hurt by the end of our day (I rode him for about 90 minutes), because I’d smiled so big the whole time. When we got done, I unsaddled him and we played “pretty pony”. I taught him to lead backward by his tail. While I do believe that some horses are naturally softer than others, all colts are soft and willing to move away from pressure, or to the release, if we let them. It’s us humans that mess that up and make a horse brace-y or hard.
I hope you enjoyed this look into our progress! I don’t know how much riding we’ll get in this week. It’s supposed to be C-O-L-D!