Horse riding update – September

Ooh do I get extra points for most imaginative title ever?  While riding lessons have been somewhat sporadic of late, both “my” pony and I are improving – and I’m having so much FUN.  I love my horsey time, from the moment I fetch the narky boy from the back paddock, to when I put him back out.  I’m not satisfied with “just” the riding; I need that entire time to commune, relax, breathe in his gorgeous horsey smell, feel something settle within myself.

He’s so much calmer in his stall now;  his MO is to chuck his head around, pin ears, stamp, tug at the lead rope, threaten to nip, et al.  I’m intrigued as to why he does this as he apparently came from a good trainer but has developed very bad ground manners over the past couple of years.  My personal hunch is that there are different volunteers grooming him in different ways, pushing him around and asking contradictory things of him, often with shouty voices, and he’s got nervy and spooky as a result.  Any ideas from the horse experts out there?

He recognises me when I arrive now, popping his head over the gate and pricking his ears – I even got a sort of whicker / nicker the other day.  He’s turned into a complete lovebug, very soppy and cuddly with me.  I take a long time grooming him and he’ll often bend his neck right round to nuzzle my shoulder or waist as I’m brushing, and drops his head so I can do his face and forelock.  He dozes off like a seaside donkey, all flop-eared with nearly-closed eyes when I comb and brush out his mane and tail, and he’ll even pick his feet up as soon as I ask – and doesn’t lean his entire weight into my hand when he does it!

Post-lesson I untack him, give him a quick groom or sponge over then take him out the back paddock.  These days he doesn’t charge off as soon as I remove the lead-rope and halter;  he stays standing with me for a few more pats and strokes and scritches, and rests his head against me.  Not pushing or using me as scratching post, just “hugging” with neck and head curved round me, or else he tucks his nose into my armpit.  SO cute!

Oh and when I’m leading him he lowers his head and neck way down so I can rest one arm across his neck – he’s only about 14.2-ish hh so this will give some idea of how short *I* am.  Then again for a small guy he does hold his head up very high [especially when someone’s trying to put the bridle on – this is the only part I can’t do, any suggestions?] and will follow along next to me with his head at or just in front of my shoulder.  I barely need the lead-rope.

So does this pony like me?  He doesn’t do this with many / any others, apparently. The coaches and volunteers are most amused at his behaviour.   I’m sure it’s because he associates me with extra affection and care eg while grooming I take more time than others do and I chat away to him like the great dork I am.  Also maybe he knows he can relax and prick rather than pin his ears as I gradually develop into a still, soft balanced rider who doesn’t yank his face around.  He carries a lot of people during the course of a week, and has quite a few volunteers / stable managers looking after him but is it possible he differentiates, and recognises me?

. . . . . . . . . .

Riding wise, my seat and legs are getting much stronger, I’m riding with my whole body now, with an increased awareness of the horse’s movement and balance, and how I move in rhythm and balance with him.  I’m finding that I need to concentrate less and less on my posture – head up and looking forward, shoulders back and down, the line from head to heel, the pelvic tilt and core strength which was so difficult to maintain in the beginning – it’s pretty much automatic / sub-conscious although I self-check frequently to make sure it’s all where it should be.  I make no bones about the fact that the coach picks on me just as much; now she’s picking on me about other techniques and skills.  It’s great fun, I’m learning so much all the time and riding more confidently and independently.

My hands are heaps better too; I imagine them “floating” low and soft, maintaining contact and fingers playing gently with the bit to keep him focused on me and not on potential Scary Monsters At Which To Spook, but never messing with his face or using the reins to balance / hang on.  That’s what my calves are for and oh yeesh, sometimes they really ache!  But it’s a GOOD ache.

As for the pony the hard work is paying off and I get us both puffing and sweating buckets!  We do lots of transition work, circling and serpentines with random halt to walk to trot to walk to trot et al, to keep him guessing and focused on me, my body and the contact with his mouth.  He’s moving forward more freely, softer, the transitions are smoother, and he doesn’t chuck his head into the air at transitions quite so much, but there’s still a long way for me to go.  But he is gradually developing a rounder, softer neck with me and I’m getting stronger yet more delicate in my cues, if that makes sense? 

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  • jewel and abu  On Sunday 21 September 2008 at 11:49 pm

    YOU HAVE GOT IT!!!! I am so proud of you.. When is your show?? We really must have pics of that…pleease..
    Sorry bout all the crappy health stuff, I simply cannot imagine. I feel something good will come to you!

  • otterkat  On Monday 22 September 2008 at 7:59 am

    Aw thanks honey, that means a helluva lot coming from a star like yourself! I’m still only doing work at the walk and trot with the occasional canter – he’s very unbalanced and even more inclined to spook at the canter so I want to have the basics DOWN before I start work in third gear – I don’t bounce like I used to :grin:.
    Hmmm Tux took a few pics a few months ago, none very good as he couldn’t get a good view or an “action” shot, but there’s a few nice ones of me on my pony talking to the coach and her demonstrating hands / contact or something.
    Thanks for the good thoughts re: health – means such a lot to me too.

  • greyhorsematters  On Thursday 2 October 2008 at 10:15 pm

    It sounds like your boy is becoming quite attached to you. I’m so happy to hear you two are doing so well together. As for his being less than a gentleman with others, he probably has so many people treating him differently, he is kind of rebelling. He more than likely just waits for you to come and give him the love and attention he desires.

  • SteamyKitchen  On Saturday 11 October 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I would loooove to introduce my kids to horseback riding! I think they would love it…

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