Well yesterday, I planned to spend some time with Reason, doing what at the time, I wasn’t sure. He was notably quiet and relaxed. Taking on a curious yet lazy persona throughout the time we were hanging out in the arena. Just the exposure alone, to other horses, horses working, the overall commotion is good for him. A tractor scraping and clunking about, in close proximity is nothing scary to Reason and to most ex-racehorses it seems, but a horse being worked in the same space, is a cause for alert. Not “scared” alert obviously, but interest, excitement and usually reaction of some sort type of alert (lets go racin’!).
Ink and I worked solo, as in his early days we were at a privately owned, backyard barn, where there was no commotion (no other horses being worked in the same space at the same time for the most part). Not only that, but I had months of time to do stuff such as round-penning etc, to work through this new found enviornment. When it came to riding amongst other horses and the concern of him reverting to race mode, it was just that, nothing to be concerned about.
My thoughts are that, if I can develop aids, vocal commands, as well as a herd fixture with Reason, I can take him through exposure in a way where he can react and observe as he wishes but will respond and come to me for answers as to what I want from him in that moment. “You can look, but you can’t touch,” idea. That way, when we get under saddle, we have established lines of communication to build upon, that will further-more develop a safe, comfortable, enjoyable space for us to exist in.
I have this sense of “space, openess” with Reason. I know he’s young, but I feel as though I need to allow him to feel like he can be himself. And this doesn’t go for just reactions etc. I also firmly believe that this also will be the key to developing him physically. First off, I don’t think, in any way, you should restrict a horse off the track. They need time to decompress their minds AND bodies. Light, relaxed and kind (yet direct) should be the keys to approaching them. And that should also be how you approach them when you begin riding. Light hands, light seat. Too much stimuli too soon can create a hollow, resistant horse I believe and one that is not comfortable or relaxed in space or mind.
I am far from perfect, but I want to learn, and a majority of the time I’m analyzing everything, usually sub-consciously. I trying to be more self-aware of what I’m doing and when. One of my latest challenges is staying calm and present. I’m not timid, I find myself pretty relaxed generally, but I want to get better. (Not worrying about how object A might make my horse spook, for example. For each new experience, object etc, can be a positive learning experience if you allow it.) I’m constantly trying to keep myself out of that “vicious cycle.” You know, when your horse reacts, you react, he reacts to you, you react to him, kind of thing. So my horse can react, but I remain calm and therefore, he calms, cycle ended. Lets move on.
My long-term goal is to have a very happy horse who is comfortable in their environment. I think Reason is on the right track!
Yesterday, after hand-walking and pressure exercises, I thought, why not have a sit up on the dark horse. Reason was being so good and he seemed to welcome the idea. He stood calmly at the mounting block as I tied the lead to make reins and climbed aboard. First of course, I laid over his back, off and on, testing the buttons and then swooped on. I swiftly and gently climbed aboard and before I realized it, I was looking down from above! This was my first time sitting up there without Matt on the ground. Uneventful but at the same time, so eventful. Reason stood still as we watched A* work a horse around the arena. Slowly, Reason asked, inch by inch to walk towards the fence where another horse was in the cross-ties. He was so curious about the other horse and wanting to meet him, I couldn’t help but smile. OTTB’s are social butterflies!