It’s another nearly picture-free week I’m afraid, but I have a nice bit of video to compensate.
The lunging and long-reining were going pretty well and I’d got on him for 3 days running in the stable without any fuss, so after a reasonable lunging session one day in the middle of the week I decided to make the move to getting on in the school. He’d had a tendency to take a step backwards (literally just one step) while I was standing on the mounting block in the school and I spent a bit of time working on this first so that I was sure he wouldn’t move. So I started with what he was used to – foot in the stirrup, weight in the stirrup and raised myself up to take the weight off my right leg. I stood there for a few minutes reassuring him and as I was sure he was happy with this I swung my right leg very slowly over the saddle. I kept most of the weight in my legs initially and sat very lightly in the saddle, fingers of one hand tucked into the neckstrap, stroking and patting him with the other hand. Then I got off and repeated the mounting a couple of times. Getting off can sometimes be the scariest bit so take care to really control your movements when you’re doing this and make it slow and smooth the first few times.
Once I’d got on and off a few times I asked Reggie to walk on – using voice aids as he wouldn’t yet understand my legs. He found my weight on his back a little confusing and shuffled backwards a few steps, then sideways a few steps. I just sat still with my reins slack and gently put my legs on his sides and kept asking with my voice. After a few minutes he took a step forwards, which he was rewarded for, then it was as though a switch had been flicked in his brain and he started walking unhesitantly forwards round the school. The long-reining had paid off and I had reasonable steering and brakes so after a couple of circles and halt transitions I dismounted and gave him plenty of polos. I really couldn’t have asked for more.
Over the next three nights I pretty much repeated the above, increasing the amount of turns I asked for until I could pretty much go anywhere I wanted on him. I also started increasing my leg aids and decreasing my voice aids and he is pretty much going from the leg now. Again, as when long-reining, there have been some fillers and poles out in the school from working other horses so I use these to practice turning around and walking between and over. It keeps things interesting and isn’t too challenging for him as he’s been doing it from the start.
On night four in the saddle, having been happy with my steering and brakes, it was time to try some trot. Again, mostly a voice aid, which he knows from lunging, but also a small leg aid as he is beginning to understand these. Fingers tucked into the neckstrap, reins fairly slack… and trot. It was very similar to when I first asked him to walk – I got a few hesitant steps, then back to walk, asked again, jogged a bit, back to walk and the magic switch in his brain flicked again and suddenly we were trotting round the arena as if he’d been doing it all his life!
My husband came the following day and took this video:
I’m hugely thrilled with Reggie. He’s gone from not really understanding how to lead correctly, to trotting happily under saddle in the space of a fortnight. He has dictated the pace all along and I’ve only moved onto something new when he’s been happy with the previous step. Some horses I’ve had were still learning to lunge at this point! We’ll be staying at this stage for a little while now – walking and trotting in the school and gradually venturing out of the school, building up to a short off-road hack with another horse. I’ve ridden him round the yard a couple of times but I’m going to go back to the long-reining to build up confidence further from home before I do it under saddle. He’s been so willing that I don’t want to put him in a position where he doesn’t have the answer to something I ask him and has to use an evasion (napping etc.) to solve it. It’s easier to avoid problems than to cause them and have to fix them!
Achieved this week:
- Mounting unaided in the school
- Stopping, starting and steering in walk
- Walking round, between and over objects
- Trotting under saddle
- Walking around the yard, ridden
Rough plan for next week:
- Continue riding in the school and polishing transitions and refining steering
- Some more long-reining out and about
- Slowly increase his ‘comfort zone’ being ridden outside the school and round the paddocks
- Now that he trusts me on the ground and understands my voice/lead-rein aids it’s time to re-visit the trailer and do a bit at a time until he happily walks in and out first time every time. I have deliberately left this until he’s pretty much 100% to lead and long-rein as I feel that the issues we had loading him when I went to pick him up were lack of handling from the ground and lack of trust in his handlers rather than ‘loading issues’ per se.