We've moved Gabe's training from the small paddock to what has been dubbed my "jump field." It's out of sight of the other horses, quite a bit bigger and I have jumps set up in there. Robert is in the process of designing/building me more jumps to add to my field! I sent him an email chock full of pictures of what I want: flower boxes, a wall, a coop, a brush box and a roll top, along with several sets of schooling standards. I'm very, very excited to see my field filled with brightly colored schooling jumps.
Anyway, I worked him for the first time in the jump field Wednesday. It's a much bigger space with much more rolling terrain than the paddock. We hadn't worked on cantering on the lunge yet in the paddock so that was one of our goals in the jump field. Yes, it's fenced in. After his shenanigans and fit throwing out in the wide open spaces, I decided I'll work him in enclosed areas for awhile longer.
And I wore my helmet, too. What a difference a helmet makes in my level of confidence! I have some ugly rope burn scars on my hands from earlier this summer, so I always, always wear heavy gloves when I'm working him. I've started wearing them while I'm working the other horses too, not because I'm worried about their shenanigans, but because my hands seem so much softer and less calloused since I've been wearing them.
I lunged him over cross rails a few times and he really, really seemed to enjoy it. Not one time did he say "Nope, I don't think so," and not pop over it. He just looked at it and over he went. He has decent form, considering it was only an 18" jump.
Then, we started the canter work. First to the left, his easiest, most flexible side. We had a few explosive canter take-offs like he was taking off from the gate and he had a really hard time figuring out how to go slowly in a circle. He's never, ever had to canter on a circle before so this was a real challenge for him, both for his balance and for his mind. He figured it out pretty quickly and while not perfectly balanced or or able to keep a regular pace on the circle, he did well.
To the right was an entirely different story. On the track, and in his track training, he was required to canter and gallop always turning to the left around the track. We had many, many explosive canter transitions tracking to the right and he could not figure out how to stay on a circle. Rope halters are my friend. He'd break into a canter and attempt to canter STRAIGHT across the field, instead of on a nice curve. I spent a lot of time following him, pulling him back on track, walk, trot, walk, halt, back, walk, halt, trot, canter. BAM! Gone. I am happy to say he didn't get away from me once. He did haul me across the field a couple of times, but never got away. Love those rope halters!
It probably took 20-25 minutes of working, reworking and refocusing tracking to the right to get him to understand what I was asking. And when he finally got it, he was an unbalanced, wrong lead, high-headed mess making a lumpy oval instead of a nice circle. But, he got it. One thing at a time, right?
I haven't put a bit on him yet, for many reasons. One reason is because I expected to have the cantering confusion and explosions that we had. I don't want to punish his mouth because he doesn't understand what I'm asking. On the track, Thoroughbreds are trained to run FASTER when the pressure of the bit gets stronger, completely opposite of how he will be expected to respond as a pleasure horse. Can you imagine how much worse our cantering training would have been had a bit been in his mouth? Ugh. I don't think I could have kept up with him! Retraining to the bit is going to be a few sessions of focusing on JUST the bit pressure. Another reason is I'm waiting for the dentist to come out and do some work on his mouth. His wolf teeth need pulled/clipped and I know he has some spurs on a few of his molars. The bit should be a comfortable experience, not a painful one. We have ONE equine dentist (that I trust and have used before!) in a four county region. His schedule is quite full at the moment.
Why haven't I gotten on him yet? That's another post entirely, as this one has gotten a lot longer than I intended!