Ex-race horses are excellent teachers of soft hands and soft seats. They aren’t usually tolerant of anything different from my experience and from what others say. There is nothing better than you can do, than stay off your horses face during the first stages of training, from what I’ve learned too. Does your car go anywhere when you hit the gas and brake? I’ve been teaching Reason the “go” aid from the beginning. Looking back, those first 3 real rides make an awful lot of sense now. My horse was confused when I asked for go and in his own nice way he said, “hey, I don’t know what you mean, you keep asking and it’s kinda making me a little irritated and nervous..” When I spent the first couple rides after he was off during his head injury (or whatever it was) I stayed outside of the arena and practiced what ‘go’ was, there. It made more sense to do it in a place where he naturally wanted to walk out. I never touched his face, to make sure he could easily associate the leg with go and because well, who needs the face anyway at this point? I had to learn how to ride him confidently and surrender any control I thought I needed in order to make it work the way it needed to. Ink was my first real teacher of an independent seat or atleast some understanding of it and the unnecessarity of the hand if the seat was doing it’s job properly, albeit quietly..
My consistent rides on Reason the last 2 weeks+ have been great successes. All I want to do is; #1 be able to ride with my leg off him while #2, be able to simply touch him for my upward transitions.. I want to be as subtle and quiet as possible while getting an enthusiastic, forward, yet relaxed response. That’s my goal, that’s the kind of ride I want.
After Reason got the upward aid, I have been able to begin to fine tune it, which then started with the introduction of the crop. Carrying the crop, Reason was keener off my leg. But it also allowed him to further-more associate my subtle leg aid with the forward reaction. I want it to get lighter and softer, but don’t expect that yet, but it’s gotten good already.
Now, I’ve found, I can ride with some contact. It’s a soft contact and Reason has found a willingness and comfort it in being there. He asks where and I say here. He hasn’t figured out yet to stretch down and begin the beginnings of traveling long and low. Perhaps he’s still not strong enough or doesn’t believe he is to do that? I’m not sure. I ask here and there to see if he wants to try and for the most part he’s right there ready to go where asked but hasn’t quite managed to figure it out.. But I like the feeling in my hand of connection, no pull, no take, just there.
Since Reason has also been going forward nicely, I’ve also been adding in asking for down-ward transitions. Keep in mind, we have no began canter work and I don’t plan to until I feel he’s traveling strongly and balanced at the trot. He gets a bit rushy going towards the exit. I like him rushing than I do sucking back, but I do want him to stay with me instead. So I’ve been adding in walk to trot (vice versa) transitions to get him with me more and lighter on my aids so he still is allowed to move forward, but is asked to come back as well.
And then, because transitions have been going well, forward has been going well, I thought I’d ask for a more forward trot. And I made the mistake of asking for a bigger trot, then smaller trot every 6 or so strides. I shouldn’t do that yet, I don’t think, because he needs to get forward down all-together before I do the shortening of the steps. I’m not sure, but I believe that’s right?
I joke that Reason will be able to do piaffe in no time! He’s so incredibly smart. Of course I have no idea how to train movements like that, heck I’m just trying to get W, T, C down properly ;)!
Yesterday I had my mom come watch us, since the last time she had seen us riding it was still when I was just sitting on him and walking. So, weird thing happening is that when Reason has people he knows watching (aka treat givers) he gets focused on them and not on me when we’re riding. When Matt watches us, Reason is watching him the entire time and I have to spend time just trying to get Reason to be with me. This brings on a cool challenge however. It makes me ask myself and question what I am and am not doing to make Reason want to be with me more than the people watching. Clearly, if I master that, it will open some many windows in our relationship. So, how exactly do I do this? My first idea is to praise A LOT more. I’ve found myself a lot picker and not as praising as I normally am. I call Reason out a lot when he’s being silly but I’m not praising him when he’s trying. My first, very first, thing I must do. Today, when I go ride, my goal is to be silent, quiet, just sit, ask, proceed and praise when it’s due. I must not correct him on his naughtyness, yet ride him forward and move on. He’s not “naughty”, he’s being very good, so I should be just smiling and riding forward. The ‘try’ is enough :).
I’m so happy with Reason.