We have had an absolutely amazing last few weeks. Because winter around here has been decidedly NOT very winter-like, and I am so grateful! Not only will my electric/propane bill be extremely low, but I've been able to ride much more than what is usual for me this time of year.
Oh, sure, we did several weeks of the regular "mud battle," but that's expected. Not enjoyed, not by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly expected and we're getting better at dealing with it. Is there almost nothing more frustrating than spending 45 minutes to an hour of good, hard grooming to knock all the caked on mud off your horse only to turn him loose in the paddock and watch as he finds the muddiest, stickiest, grossest spot to roll in and make mincemeat of your elbow grease? And Gabe, he's not really gray any more, he's got this glorious pee-yellow tinge to his entire body. Thanks, mud! Love ya!
The ground work is going exceedingly well. We've had a few minor "blow ups" by the big man, but he settles back into the work quickly. It's almost like his little Thoroughbred brain misfires momentarily then resets as fast as it got off track. We spend our on the ground sessions sensitizing the heck out of him to respond to my every move/command, then the last five or so minutes desensitizing the heck out of him with the rope and whip. After each session, he gets to stand for a significant amount of time at the patience pole, something he has never been a big fan of doing. We're up to over an hour now, something I would have never thought possible just a few months ago. He stands so quietly, the wiggling is over, and he's figured out that relaxing, dropping his neck and cocking a back leg is a far more productive way to spend his time than fretting and worrying the entire time.
So, one quirk that has cropped up has come to light with the lateral flexion in the saddle. He does it beautifully on the ground, gives into the pressure and touches his nose to his belly and I release. But, when I ask for the same thing in the saddle, he gives to the pressure, swings his neck around, relaxes and BITES MY FREAKING FOOT! Last night he stole my crop, just reached a little further back and snatched it quick as can be from where I'd tucked it behind my boot! I don't want to punish him for flexing because he's doing what I've asked and doing it well, he's just added his own twist to it. If I toe him in the nose, I'm punishing him for flexing...so I'm at a loss.
All of the ground work is making our in saddle time so much more productive and so very enjoyable for both of us. Well, except for this past Saturday.
Saturday, the man threw an enormous fit. Kayleigh and I were out riding the fields and I asked him to trot. He trotted up nicely for about five steps then dropped that neck between his front legs and proceeded to buck and spin like a freaking rodeo bronc. Not kidding when I say that big guy is ATHLETIC! I stuck it, but it sure wasn't pretty nor graceful.
Oh, hell no. We are not going to play the bucking game. No way. I don't care how good he feels, bucking is not okay. So, I took advantage of those huge unplanted fields and worked his butt off, circles, serpentines, loops, leg yields, all at a good, strong working trot. And every time he gave even the slightest GLIMMER that he was going to act like a stupid teenager on crack, I asked him for even more and worked him a little harder. As soon as he relaxed into the work and gave me back his neck and face, I let him walk on a loose rein and get a breather. By the time we got back home he was once again a big lazy puppy dog.
He is definitely keeping me on my toes and keeping me honest, that's for sure! Gotta love the big guy.