This week it was cold, windy and rainy, which isn’t exactly an ideal combination for a relaxed ride on Luc in the indoor arena. I was a little concerned when we stepped through the door from the tack-up area to the arena and Luc stopped dead in his tracks and snorted. His eyes were wide as he stared down at the closed door at the other end. ‘Oh boy’ I thought to myself, this is going to be one interesting ride.
The only real advantage to Luc being so completely consumed with staring down at that door was it was easy to get on. I’m not sure he noticed when I put my foot in the stirrup, tossed my leg over his back and settled into the saddle. He definitely didn’t notice when I asked him to step forward for the first time. Once he clued in to the fact that someone was actually trying to ride him, he took a few hesitant steps forward. His head was so high his ears could have easily tickled the inside of my nose. He felt like a very tightly coiled spring that was about to unwind at any moment. It was not a comforting feeling.
Determined to be brave, I continued to walk him forward, directly toward the terrifying door at the other end. We made it about halfway down the long side before he started to move backwards instead of forwards. This was the moment I thought that spring might uncoil on me. He spun around – something I was expecting – and instead of just working in the safe zone for the rest of my ride (something I have done in the past) I made him circle. Then we circled again. Each time moving our circle further down the ring until we found ourselves right beside the scary door.
It took a while, but Luc relaxed a little. He continued to eye the door every single time we passed it, and he would take a few ‘spooky’ steps every time the wind howled particularly loud or the dogs barked or something else made any kind of noise. But at least he continued to go past it, and to come back to me when asked. The longer we rode, the more confident I became.
At the end of the ride I decided to work on spiralling circles. We did one each way at the trot and Luc responded beautifully, making that circle smaller and smaller and smaller before widening back out. Then I tried at the canter. It took every ounce of strength I had, but as that circle got smaller, I made Luc continue to canter. Not once did we break to trot. I was so proud! And my sister, Luc’s owner, was pleasantly surprised too. It turns out she’d never done spiralling circles at the canter with Luc. She had worked on them in the trot, but not in the canter. My confidence went through the roof at that.
While it seemed at the start of the ride that there might be some sort of crisis or explosion, Luc and I happily averted any such disaster. It was a huge boost to my confidence and I was beaming by the time I got off. Luc learned that he still has to behave and be responsive even when he’s unsure about his surroundings, and I learned that I can get him to settle and still be productive. Hopefully this confidence continues well into the winter when the arena will be the backdrop for every ride.