Time flies, doesn't it? I've been so busy riding and playing with my ponies that I put the blog on the back burner.
Our weather has been spectacularly amazing in every sense of the word. Cool and sunny and PERFECT for riding and you betcha I've taken advantage of every beautiful daylight moment as I can. All too soon I'll be complaining about the short days and icy conditions that keep my butt out of the saddle.
My husband, daughter and myself also started a fitness program at the beginning of August. We are walking/jogging two miles four days a week. This week we are bumping it up to five days a week and 2.5 miles. I need to lose weight and get into better shape if I am going to do Gabe any justice at all. He's a big, powerful ride and I need the fitness and strength to ride him to his fullest.
I took Gabe on his first "long" trail ride last weekend with my husband on Calypso acting as the "guard pony." We wandered up through the woods and into the neighbor's field where we startled a man sitting on a motorcycle hidden in the weeds. I think we startled him more than he startled the horses! I was pretty surprised to see him there and may have even squealed a bit before I said "OH MY GOD! You scared the crap out of me!" Gabe just glanced at him and kept on marching. He takes everything in stride. He marches along wonderfully on the trail, nice and forward but relaxed. His ears are flicking around and he's really paying attention to his surroundings, but he's not reacting at all, just watching. Excellent! We came across a part of the trail where a tree had partially fallen across the path. It's upper length was wedged in the high crook of a tree a good 12 feet up. There was no going around it or over it. We'd have to go under it. Calypso walked right under it without a second thought. Gabe, on the other hand, wasn't quite so sure about going beneath it. There was plenty of room, but it freaked him out. My wonderful husband jumped off Calypso and led Gabe under the tree...and he went right under. Good boy! We had one snort and startle when a rabbit dashed out of the tall grasses right in front of him, but definitely not any kind of spook to speak of. He's on his way to becoming an excellent trail horse...and hopefully and equally excellent fox hunter and eventer.
I think I may have fixed the head flinging issue simply by working him and ignoring it. I truly do think it was exuberance and youth more than anything else. He did it mostly at the beginning of the ride and always threw a bit of a hop in with the fling and squeal, very similar to what I've seen him do when he's trying to convince Chief or Calypso to play with him in the field.
Last night's ride involved two very, very half-hearted attempts at the fling and squeal in the first five minutes of the ride. I could feel him think about flinging and instead, he dropped his neck and gave a little squeal. As soon as he did it I turned him in a small circle and sent him forward. It was our best ride yet. As soon as he indulged his half-hearted head flings and one little obligatory teleportation spook at nothing in particular, I had his full attention for the rest of the half hour ride.
We now have turns that are closer to power steering than driving a train. I discovered less rein is best with getting a good turn and bend from him. I changed up his bit AGAIN and I think I found a good match. He's now in a Myler wide barrel loose ring comfort snaffle and he LOVES it. The overly exaggerated playing with the bit, grinding and chewing is gone. He still chews and reaches, but softly, with plenty of drool and foam to go along with it. And the turns are so much better in this bit.
We have transitions (up and down) that are immediate and mostly hot off my leg. We do have the occasional "I don't WANT to and you can't make me," tantrum, but those are over pretty quickly because I continue to insist, quietly and consistently, that he give me just ONE step of the requested action. Our downward transitions require NO rein! Yay! This was one of my ultimate goals...to have a horse respond entirely off my seat and legs. We'll see if that transfers to longer, faster trail rides and cross country gallops. :D
We now have so-so leg yields, pretty good turns on the forehand and are learning, step by step, turns on the haunches. Once the turn on the haunches tightens up as he gains the muscle and the understanding for it, we'll move to walk pirouettes. The rein backs are getting better. I really have to think about those because I've always ridden horses that required a bit of backward movement with the hands to get a reverse so I automatically pull backwards. I'm fighting that tendency in myself every single time! I don't want that in Gabe. He needs to respond just to the shift in my weight, a tap with my legs and unmoving hands. So far, he's getting it. Slowly. But getting it, and that's all that matters!
That's the summer in a nutshell!
And for your viewing pleasure, my 8-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, in her lesson this week: Cantering is the BOMB!