Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big weekend for the kids

What a weekend!  Not only has Joe improved significantly over the four times I've ridden him, but I finally back the pony!  I'll start out with Joe though.

Thursday was my first time riding him, and when I first get on a horse, especially one that I have time to work with (no rush for results) I like to feel out how they go and how they like to use their bodies.  Many OTTBs (Off the Track Thoroughbreds) are strong to the left, weak to the right, and stiff through their whole bodies.  Because Joe was turned out for 18+ months before I bought him, most of his body soreness from race training should be gone.  Living out in a pasture doesn't improve one-sidedness though.  

Since when I watched him be ridden by the cowboy last weekend I noticed he had a tight grip on Joe's mouth (and a corkscrew snaffle- poor boy) I also wanted to see what how he'd go without any support.  As I imagined, he went with his head up, bracing with his lower neck, and using his neck to balance himself in turns.  He also wasn't interested in picking up the right lead at all.  The next day I had the privilege of having a great professional watch me ride, and on the second try, with his tips we got the right lead, and I was impressed by how soft and balanced his canter was!  This is going to be a nice horse.

On Saturday I began asking for a bit more from him.  We spent some time walking and trotting on small circles where he was rewarded for bending to the inside and giving to the pressure. These exercises will help him become much more supple through his whole body.  I also began to ask him to drop his head down and lift through his back.  Right now, because he's not completely accepting of the contact, he is not truly on the bit, rather he's just in a frame, but working this way will help him to build his topline and gain muscle in the right places.  As he learns to understand the aids better he will learn how to carry himself correctly.  Since he still needs about 300 lbs I'm taking it slow and letting him figure things out as we go.  He's proving to be very smart and quiet though, which is exactly why I bought him!  I'm so glad that Janene was around to take some video so you can see exactly why I like him so much.

Afterwards, I went through my routine with Starbucks, and since I had Janene around to help I thought it would be the perfect chance to back him for the first time.  I lunged him til he was pretty tired (did I mention he picked up on how to lunge right away?  He's an old pro now!), and then I went through my routine of jumping up and down, banging on the saddle, shaking everything, waving my hands all over the place - Starbucks just looked at me like I'm crazy.  I swear if horses could roll their eyes, he would have in that moment.  So I had Janene lead him up to the mounting block and I layed across his back several times from each direction, and then I mounted and dismounted several times, and finally we walked off! We walked about 20 ft and then I hopped off and started over with the whole process.  The second time (after the same process of laying across him and mounting and dismounting) I got on and we walked around the whole ring with much less stopping and starting!  He's such a good boy and deserves a ton of treats!  (although instead of treats I just tell him he's a good boy, I hate mouthy horses).  

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