Some horses you can toss out in a pasture for months and they are exactly the same when you pull them back out for a ride. This is Chief. He can go unridden and unused for weeks at a time and there is never a moment when he "forgets" that it's his job to take care of his young rider. He's steady, ready and willing to march along and do his steady-eddy thing.
Then there are those who need regular reminder sessions. I call them ADD horses. They remember what they want when they want and are very, very easily distracted. My old TB mare, Star, was this kind of horse. Loved her to death and she was always fun (if sometimes a significant challenge) but the training could be trying. She was really, really good at forgetting everything if she got more than two days off at a time. That third day was spent catching back up and reminding her of everything she'd completely put out of her silly little head. Give her a week or more off and I practically had to start all over again. Moving forward and progressing was often a trial in two steps forward, one step back.
Gabe, he falls somewhere in between the two. Ridden regularly, which for me is at least four days a week if the weather, the mud, the daylight and the farm-work cooperate while the planets align, he is a delight. I can build on what we learned before and keep moving forward. I very much like forward progression, especially when I can see the goal getting closer and closer.
If he gets a solid week off I have to spend at least one riding session just reminding him that yes, he does know how to turn and trot nicely and not leap around like he's mounted to a pogo stick. And honestly, it doesn't even have to be a riding session, just some time in the long reins gets the brain ticking along the right track again.
I have managed to ride four times this week and the results have been nothing short of wonderful. Each ride is a little better than the last, his mind is in the game for longer each ride and I feel like we are clicking more often. The lateral work last night was the best yet after I spent a few minutes on the ground reminding him to move away from the pressure before getting into the saddle.
Circles are feeling less like taking a corner on a motorcycle and more like powering through each stride balanced and upright, as it should be. He still seriously pops that shoulder and crooks the neck to the outside tracking left...but it's slowly, incrementally getting better.
He is getting quicker off my leg for transitions (a few well-timed reminders with the dressage whip fixed his extended response delay to transition up cues) and I find I'm using my reins less and less and he "hears" my body cues more and more.
Clicking, connecting, understanding. It's a beautiful thing.
The corn still freaks him out but I'm starting to think it's an excuse for him to be a silly boy and test me. The corn has gone from lush and green to dry, brown and quite loud in the breeze. Our cool-down walk along the driveway was interesting as he flicked his ears at the rustling sounds coming from the field and snorted at it more than a few times.
Getting him anywhere NEAR those rows was fun, but I managed to get him close enough to encourage him to touch his nose to a single dried leaf. And wouldn't you know it, when he touched it, it rustled and moved and OH MY GOD! Tried to EAT HIM! He can definitely move laterally, quite quickly and with much agility and athleticism. Now I need to figure out how to harness that power and athleticism so he will do the same thing when I ask, not just when the corn attacks him.