Trainer is at Lexington with some riders all week, so Assistant Trainer took over teaching. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed a pattern, but AT kicks my butt HARD. I love her, but ouch. So I’m always excited when she teaches!
Frankie started out pretty stiff, which is quite new for him. Putting the stiffness together with the myriad scrapes and cuts I found on him, we deduced that he was playing and rough-housing with his buddy all night. Awesome. Once he got moving he opened up a bit, but he was definitely lazy.
Lazy for him does not mean slow. It does not mean that I have to boot him up constantly. What it DOES mean is that he has absolutely no desire to hold himself up. This isn’t as apparent at the trot, but as soon as we stepped up into the canter he basically said, “Mahhhm, I’m tired, please carry me around the ring.” OK BUDDY THIS AIN’T WORKIN’ FOR ME. As much as he is my baby and I will do anything for him, I am not physically able to drag his ass around the way he wanted me to.
Those half-halts were getting CREATIVE, let me tell you. Like, they started out very soft and subtle and got zero response, and it eventually escalated to me bumping him HARD in the mouth with my outside rein to get him to just GETTHEFRICKOFFMYHANDJESUSCHRISTISWEARTOGOD. He got with the program and tried a bit harder once we had one or two of those come-to-Momma moments.
It did get better. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I love this horse’s brain. There were 4 of us in there and some of the lesson kids got rather close and he didn’t blink. Just kept truckin’ around.
It was pretty stupid hot and none of us had the brain power to remember courses, so we made it a gymnastics day. We had a pretty wide variety of rider and horse abilities in the lesson and I think gymnastics are perfect for these- you can very easily adjust them to be suitable for anyone.
It was set as a short one stride to a longer one stride- the first was tough for Francis to get bouncy through, but he loved opening up through the second part. Predictable.
The take-aways: I need to just keep my leg on for support and let Frankie do his job. I tried to manage that short step a bit too much and he simply didn’t need my help. I was also getting too forward with my shoulders and trying to jump for him- I need to wait and let him jump up to me. He’s gonna jump the jump. I don’t need to do it for him.
Lastly, I really need to work on that auto-release. I know that I don’t hit him in the mouth, but looking at some slo-mo videos it definitely doesn’t have that smooth quality I’d like; it looks like I’m pulling back on take-off before releasing. I think part of this is the way Frankie jumps, but a much bigger piece is that I need to strengthen my core and get my hands truly independent.
I was really happy with this lesson though! My leg is slowly getting better and less slippy on Francis, and he was totally game even as the jump went up. AT sticked the last oxer at 3’6″ by the last time through and I was having a blast. It’s still a novelty for me to do those bigger jumps, but I feel so confident with Francis! He doesn’t blink and just does his job.
I’m also glad we made him stretch a little bit over the bigger jumps- he was moving out sooo much better by the end and I think getting to move those muscles made him feel tons better. No more stiffness.
I also have a short cautionary story to share: I turned Frankie out once he was done getting a bath and cooled down. As he often does post-bath, he immediately searched out a spot to roll. This time, he chose RIGHT next to the round bale. Like, he bumped into the bale going down.
And as you can probably guess, he eventually got stuck as he rolled around. The round bale was between his front and hind legs and the ground was mucky enough that he couldn’t get purchase to roll away from it. I’m just glad that he’s not a panicky horse by nature- after trying to get up a couple times, he just lay still for a moment and then looked back at me. “Mahm. Help?”
Of course I was already running to him to get that bale away from my precious boy. Manfriend was luckily there to help (he is SO MUCH STRONGER THAN ME) and Francis was able to quickly stand up and shake off.
And get this- shaky and bug-eyed, he just walked over for kisses. I swear he was so nervous and needed his Momma for a minute. After some much-needed snuggles, homeboy quickly calmed down and was back to munching his hay peacefully and no worse for the wear.
So I’m not sure what we could have done to prevent this (seriously horse you have a solid couple acres to roll, why did it have to be right there???) but just a tale of caution in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t figured this out yet: horses will try to injure themselves on literally everything. EVERYTHING.
Two questions today:
- What do you do when your half-halts aren’t making a difference?
- What’s the weirdest thing your horse has tried to maim themself on?