Gabe showed his racehorse background over the weekend. No, he didn't take off with me nor did he act like the woods were going to eat him alive.
Instead, he displayed his green bean status when we came across a series of all too unfamiliar earthen obstacles that had him completely befuddled. He didn't know what to do with his body!
There is a barren strip of land on the backside of our property that runs for MILES in either direction. This is where a new oil pipeline was put in last fall and the path is wide, straight and dirt. However, the workers also constructed a series of low earthen berms along the length of it to prevent erosion. The berms are more like ramps...a gentle slope up one side leading to an 18" to 2' drop on the other side.
Heading out we stepped up the drop and walked down the ramp. No problem at all for Gabe and excellent exercise for that developing booty and topline.
However, the way back was a different story as we had to take the berms ramp first and step down.
Game over. The first step down sent him into a head-flinging nearly nose-breaking hissy fit in which he tried to gallop off sideways after the step down. I know it was because he couldn't figure out how to balance himself. He does something very similar down low hills, but not quite so extreme. I've been working on getting him to push his butt under himself going down hill while staying as balanced over his center as I can. Over and over again we stepped down off the edge and he flung his head up as soon as his front end and hind end were at different elevations. As soon as the hind end hit the lower elevation, the attempt to take off sideways ensued. Staying nicely balanced over his center became a challenge!
Yes, I popped him in the mouth the first couple of times he tried to connect his head with my face. I have had that experience and been knocked out due to a horse skull smashing into my face and I have no wish to ever repeat that again. So, I popped him and I felt bad for it but he cannot do that, period.
The next time I take him out there he will be wearing the running martingale so he can pop himself immediately AND so he can't smash my face should he decide to play the head tossing game again.
I am not a big believer in drilling horses in anything because I don't think there is any benefit to it. However, he will be drilling over those ramps/drops until he figures it out...we will also be drilling hills. If he is going to be a foxhunter and an eventer, he's got to figure this stuff out sooner rather than later. And soon, we will be popping over ditches and creeks.
I plan to concentrate on as much out-on-the-trail experience as I can this summer and stay out of the ring as much as possible. We are at the point where the basics in the ring are good enough...now, we need to apply those basics to an open, more challenging situation before we move back into the ring for the next phase of training. He NEEDS the experience out in the open right now and I think it will really improve our ring work as he learns that he must concentrate on me...not everything around us.