More and more, I’m feeling the push to move forward. Part of me always has Reason’s injury at the forefront of any decision I make, including getting on and walking, worrying. But part of me thinks, is pretty certain, that getting on and taking more steps in that direction (riding), is the place to be heading. Reason is mentally, getting to the point of asking for this. Hand-walking has it’s place and it’s been part of our relationship from the beginning and will be for many months to come, but riding, is slowly creeping up as the main source of movement..
Reason is getting increasingly bored with hand-walking. The footing around the property isn’t all comfortable to me to use right now, after the amount of rain we got over the weekend, so that’s off the list for the time being, of stuff we can do and hand-walking in the arena is almost a chore because Reason is not stimulated. I don’t want to ride more than 2-3 times a week, at just a walk, 10 minutes at a time, but I feel that this is the right direction to be heading in.
I’m hoping for an ultrasound this week or next (cross your fingers) of Reason’s [bowed] tendon. It’s looking good and feeling tight. I want to shave his legs because this winter hair growth has me freaking out. I think the tendon looks bigger and then I go down to palpate it and have a sigh of relief. It’s my mind playing tricks on me! It’s been 7 almost 8 months since the injury. I think for the fairly mild bow it is and given that all we’ve done for that time is rest and hand-walking, I think it’s time to move forward. Although I toyed with the idea of not getting on his back or anything for a full 12 months, I think that would be awfully boring for Reason, considering how active he is and the environment he lives in. Mentally he does not need that long for decompressing either.
Yesterday I had a second ride on Reason. Bareback is my method of choice. A fellow barn buddy asked me if I “break all my horses like that.” Lol. Well, first I don’t know if retraining an OTTB constitutes as “breaking” at this stage, I don’t know. And second, just like with some average horses, the approach to legging up can vary depending on the horse and situation. Reason’s very smart. And like most OTTB’s he anticipates what I want, based on what he already knows. So if the bridle or saddle came out in the earlier stages (where I just hand-walked him with different pieces of tack) you could tell he was ready for what he thought we were going to do. I liked that attitude, but because of his “associations” with things, I had to try something that would almost make him wonder and wait instead of anticipate. Halter and bareback was the method of choice! Simply because he had no idea about this.. He listened to me and I trusted him enough to feel comfortable doing it this way. Now, I started introducing the bridle to our routine and although he anticipates, he still asks for direction because the overall feel of the situation (and environment) is different. Once I got him to the point where he was asking, it opened the door to retraining!
So yesterday I focused more on forwardness. It’s all about forward to me. But at times, in what seemed like confusion, Reason would stop, almost asking to reiterate what I just did. I cluck first to cue forward, back it up with a light touch from my heel. At times this didn’t work, not sure why. So I brought up the crop (not something I was sure was appropriate at the time) but backed up my leg with a touch from that if all else failed. The less aids the better. Leg, seat and hand should be the only three, but sometimes artificial aids are needed. I guess because I have done a lot of ground work and pressurizing with the whips presence, Reason understands that more than the leg right now. That’s what I chalk it up too. I suppose I keep doing what I’m doing and eventually he’ll understand the leg itself. Not bad at all for the second ride!
The steering isn’t bad at all. He’s actually pretty straight and responsive. I was amazed that when I would ask him to halt and practice the steering aids, he understood them really fast, which quickly carried over when we got moving. The brakes need work, only because the brakes are wired so weird (compared to English and western riding) right now. He’s smart, so I know this will come in time. But at this point, I’m focusing more on the verbal aid of “halt” with a little hand to back it up so he can connect the two later on. I can tell he’s trying to understand and I give Reason credit for that alone.
All in all he’s a good ride, happy and comfortable with a rider on his back. But make no mistake, he can be a little opinionated about what he wants to do. Basically, he will evade my aids here and there to try to get me to let him walk somewhere else than where I want. As his leader, I can’t let him dictate. But he can do what he wants, so long as he stays within my aids.
I got off yesterday, after about 10minutes feeling happy and good about everything. Reason was so good and he’s so happy. Ah, that is enough for me! I love it.