Despite all the stopping and starting throughout October, Solo was relaxed and confident when we introduced one more new step today.
His ‘under saddle’ progression has been:
- Walking whilst being led in hand.
- Walking and trotting on the lunge line, inside a roundpen
- Walking and trotting (with the occasional unplanned canter) loose in the roundpen with a ground person in the centre to help maintain impulsion.
- Walking in the indoor arena while being led in hand
- Walking and trotting in the indoor on the lunge
- Walking and trotting in the indoor while being ponied. and today’s new step…
- Walking and trotting in the big wide world while being ponied.
All very small steps I know, but there is no rush. I rode him around on my own the first time I ever saw him, I know that he is mentally quite comfortable with the idea of us riding him – it’s more a question of conditioning him for the work of being ridden. We spent a long time in the roundpen, convincing him to go forward and overtrack while carrying the weight of the rider. It took some time for Solo to develop enough bulk and muscle to sustain a circle. The periods of actual riding in the roundpen were short, with the initial emphasis on his going forward and using himself without the rider’s weight. I am a big believer in giving young horses sufficient time to develop muscles along the topline. Many horses are mentally able to let you ride them, but their physique still has to change and develop the extra size and strength needed to hulk us around everywhere. At six feet, I am NO lightweight!
He did something weird for a couple of days. He suddenly reacted to his tack and boots as though they were making him terribly itchy, or as though a large number of big bitey flies were attacking. He would fly buck, try to scratch his side with his teeth, try to shiver and shake imaginary bugs off his head and flanks. Once he did it as he was leaving the barn being ponied, another time he did it after lunging well for about 15 minutes, acting as though his skin was either very itchy or being bitten. The third time he did it he was once more leaving the barn, being ponied. First time we changed his boots/saddlepad/girth and adjusted everything and it seemed to work. The second time we once more adjusted everything and told him to ‘chill’ and he coped. The third time, all was perfect with the same tack as the day before so we told him quite firmly to ‘get a grip and get on with working’ which seemed to pretty much have the same effect as re-tacking him, the next day he was as good as gold….go figure.
BTW….we have pulled his mane, but we haven’t had the heart to attack his furry ears yet….awwwwww