When most people hear Thoroughbred off-the-track they typically think "Oh, crazy and fast!"
Which can be true, in part. I like to think of them more as "sensitive and responsive," and LIKE my personal riding horses that way.
But, Gabe, oh, he is a conundrum. He is neither crazy, nor is he fast. Which you would think automatically leads to "lazy and dull." Which is he is not. Usually.
There is a reason he is no longer on the track running his big Thoroughbred heart out. And it's because he was an absolute failure. He won his first two races then decided, "eh, this isn't for me, I don't wanna." So he didn't. Once he decides he's really not interested in doing something he just doesn't. Pretty simple.
There are rides when he's on it. Moving forward, responding wonderfully and quickly and just there, almost anticipating my requests.
Other times he's like riding a plow horse with freight train controls. There is no go, there is no turn and stop or lollygag about are about the only gaits he excels at. Think Eeyore general attitude on these days. It can be SOOOO frustrating to be up there, giving the cue, giving the cue, giving the cue and your horse just ignores you. You KNOW he knows what you want but decides that compliance isn't at the top of his list today.
I've tried the whisper, tell, yell method and given him three chances to give me the right answer and usually fail. So, to the 'net I go, looking for suggestions, knowing the answers I will most likely find.
“The biggest thing causing a non-responsive horse, is the rider giving too many aids,” states dressage rider and coach Gary Vander Ploeg emphatically. “We are taught as green riders to give lots of aids, that is, look busy on the horse, and we are not taught how to be passive. The worst thing we can do is to ‘drive stronger’ and ‘grip with your legs’ with these horses, because we are actually training them to be dull.” From a Horse-Canada.com article.
Yup. Exactly what I knew I'd find. It's never the horse, it's always the rider. So, how do I fix this problem?
Again, I knew the answer but it always helps me to see it and read it before I put it into practice.
Gabe no longer gets three chances. He gets ONE. Because he knows what the answer is, he just doesn't feel like answering at that moment.
I will no longer be that nagging rider, begging my horse to comply with my request, being along for the ride. I will be the leader in this relationship and he doesn't get to decide he doesn't feel like responding.
One light cue and when I get no response, he gets a whack with the stick. I don't think it will take him long to figure out it's just easier to "follow the leader." He's a smart horse. Smart enough that he's managed to get me exactly where he wants me...complying with HIS decisions on the days he really just doesn't wanna.