While I figured out what to do with June in the time that I can’t ride, I decided to keep my weekly lesson with Sarah and have her continue to ride June.
I’m really glad I did as it taught me so much about my pony and Sarah had some amazing progress with her.
In their first ride together they worked on connection and balance in the walk/trot. June tends to grab the bit and pull. She evades steering. She evades contact. But by the end of the ride she was already lighter in the bridle and making progress. Sarah was looking forward to riding her again 4 days later to see what the mare had retained.
June was more supple, lighter in the contact and more responsive to what Sarah was asking from step one. She had pretty much retained…everything! Sarah was very impressed and moved on to the canter. Which…well.. lets just say our canter needs work. Especially on a 20 meter circle. June roots, evades contact, falls in, and just stops. I knew it would be a mess, so wasn’t surprised when Sarah had some serious work ahead of her.
June’s two tactics for evading work, well three actually, are 1) grab the bit 2) just stop 3) buck/kick out. She didn’t buck or kick out at all with Sarah. But she grabbed that bit and ignored half halts. And towards the end of the ride, when she was tired, she literally just stopped moving forward and would start going backwards. As you can imagine, when a pro is riding a horse and it does this, it doesn’t go very well for the horse…
By the end of the ride they had made some good progress and June was tired, but had learned what doesn’t work for her. She got the next day off and I got the following texts:
“I’d like to ride June again. We made such great progress and I’d like to see if she retained what we worked on.”
“June is so smart. Do you know how smart she is? Most horses don’t learn this quickly.”
“I am in love with her trot.”
My trainer wants to put another schooling ride on my horse? She thinks my horse is wicked smart? She loves her trot? Best Day EVER.
And so, after a day off, June had what will be her final ride before going out to pasture for a month while I recover. I had wanted to give her a month off after a summer of intense riding so her baby brain could process it all. I wasn’t expecting to do it now, but the timing will have to change as I don’t want to miss riding her for 4-6 weeks and then give her time off when I am better.
So, Sarah got back on her, and from their first steps together, through the end of the lesson, all I could think was “She looks like a completely different horse than she did two lessons ago.”
She barely evaded contact. She barely pulled on the bit. She was responsive and forward (maybe too forward sometimes, but who can blame baby horse for trying a new tactic to avoid work) and she listened to Sarah far better than she had before. The ride was short and sweet. June was good, so there was no need for Sarah to drill her. She needs to learn that good behavior results in quitting time coming sooner rather than later.
I was amazed at the progress she had made in such a short time, as was Sarah. She mentioned that June made leaps and bounds beyond what is normally seen or expected. I’m not too surprised that June is a smarty pants. I think it’s why I struggle with her sometimes. I think she has strong opinions, and isn’t afraid to test me. But the good news is, she isn’t resistant to work, I just need to ask correctly. She didn’t kick out once with Sarah, despite being asked to work harder than she ever had. So, why did she buck with me? All I can think is, it’s worked for her in the past, and it’s her go to. I think me hanging off the side of her pulling on her rein, was not fun for her either, so the most rescent kick out, didn’t work that well for her either. I’m sure she’ll buck again. I’m sure I’ll fall off again (but hopefully NOT from a buck) but seeing her work ethic, how, um, FANCY she is when she’s put together and how willing she can be, I know that this journey will be fun and worthwhile.