As I suggested previously, now that the rate of education has slowed down a little, the Reggie updates have been a little less frequent. He’s been out and about a lot as I feel that he sometimes lacks confidence. Nothing drastic, but it will do him good to widen his horizons a little and find out that the world isn’t quite as scary a place as he thinks.
He wasn’t quite ready to justify the expense of hiring a XC course, but I thought it would do him good to get his feet wet. He’s always been a little suspicious of different surfaces under his toes (for example looking hard at a join between concrete and tarmac before crossing it) so I thought it was worth starting on this one sooner rather than later. There’s a hack nearby with two river crossings – good, sloping ramps in, shallow water and good footing – so I boxed him up, accompanied by the husband and a bike, and set out for a hack. I didn’t take a lead horse for two reasons – firstly he’s never really relied on another horse to follow for anything so I wasn’t really sure how strong an incentive it would be for him, and secondly I thought my husband might be more help from the floor.
He was very suspicious and snorty when he first saw the river so I hopped off him and popped him on a lunge-line (stirrups and reins secured) and led him in. We got a HUGE leap the first time! I then stood him in the water for a while, led him up and down stream a bit and then lunged him in and out from both sides until he was bored by the whole experience and just plodding in and out. I then got on him and he happily plodded in and out of the water with me in the saddle. We repeated the process at the second crossing. I think he’ll need plenty of exposure to water over the next few weeks/months, but as I don’t expect him to event until he is five this isn’t a problem and much better than introducing him for the first time a couple of weeks before an event! A few days later on a different hack he happily followed a lead horse into a horrid dark, spooky XC water complex so I feel that he has actually picked up more than I first thought.
Five years ago I would have done the whole process from the saddle, sitting and waiting for hours if necessary until the horse went in. However I have changed my thinking a little over the years and now find that the process is a lot easier and less stressful for a suspicious horse if you are on the floor. It also means that they don’t get socked in the mouth and you don’t get unbalanced if they throw in a huge leap. It’s not a cop-out, it’s a way of finding a method that gives the horse the most confidence in the end and I may well start him over ditches the same way. I was interested to speak recently to a 4* rider who says he now lunges all his babies into water/ditches the first time. I felt vindicated in my training methods!
The only safe hacking I have from the yard is a 15 minutes off-road loop, which he is quite used to and happy to plod round on his own. The main road from our yard is far too busy to consider, though I do take him to the end of the drive most days after schooling and let him stand next to the main road and watch the HGVs thunder by, so he’s getting used to traffic. I think he’ll be pretty good with traffic but don’t want to have a problem with, for example, someone mowing their garden or rubbish blowing out of a bin on a main A road!
As a consequence I’ve mostly been boxing him up to hack out and he’s been out and seen a few places. He’s hacked around a local nature reserve a few times on his own (and even past the water-skiing lake!). They have really odd gateways supposed to prevent motorbikes from going in which I was worried he’d either trip over or attemp to jump in one go, but actually he’s been pretty clever, dropped his head, worked it out, and plodded through.
We’ve had a couple of outings to do low-key dressage and clear round jumping. First time out he did me proud and won the second of his two tests with 67%. Admittedly the first test was conducted at about 3ft from all of the boards, but when he went in for the second test he just got on with it like a seasoned pro! I took him back to the same venue a fortnight later and he won both tests this time with 69.5% and 70% which I was obviously thrilled with! He has also qualified for the Port Royal Summer Dressage Championships. I’ve now entered him for some prelims so will have to refine the canter a little!
We’ve also splashed out on some shoes. He was very good to shoe – it was his first set and he was hot shod. The farrier hand-made his shoes to demonstrate to his apprentice, so the forge was pretty noisy and it took a little longer than usual but I’m very pleased with the end result.
Sadly I’m writing his advert at the moment. He was only ever going to be here to break in and get to the point where someone could take him on. I’m going to try to get him XC schooling first, not least to get some nice photos, and will be keeping up the outings as I feel he grows in confidence every time he’s done something new. He needs a bit more work before he’ll be ready to event – I don’t think he’ll be ready to do 4yo classes, but that’s not a problem in my eyes. He will make a lovely little horse for someone to continue bringing on and I can’t see any reason why he won’t be ready to start at BE90 at the beginning of next season.