Taking On Chance
It was a gorgeous day, so I was back outside as soon as I got home.
I saddled up Chance, planning on riding him for a nice little school. Well, to my astonishment, he decided to spook at "something (nothing)" in the woods and after bolting off for about 10 strides simply refused to head off in that direction without fussing. I circled him off and headed for another part of the arena, which distracted him enough that he forgot about the lurking monster.
But, he kept insisting on falling in on his right shoulder, with his head either dead on straight or bent to the left. If I bent him right, he fell in so badly, it was almost impossible to do anything but a little tight circle. I concentrated on sitting long on the right to use my seat and leg to push him to the left, outside rein, but it was not very effective. He was just too resistant and stiff on the right rein.
So, I stopped, and began some basic flexion exercises, asking him to yield to the right rein with his head and neck. The basic principle is to hold the right rein and when he gives, to let it go until he understands he needs to yield to the pressure. I had minimal success. He would give and then pull the rein away, tossing his head up and flinging it to the left. It was a bit disconcerting, because I worried that if he threw a tantrum about it, he might rear. So I dismounted and continued the exercise from the ground.
I'm not sure how long we kept at it, as Chance obviously has some pretty stubborn determination. He obviously does not like to stretch his left side to give correct bend to the right and makes it clear he doesn't particularly like to try. I insisted, he resisted, and we just kept discussing it. Finally, after a good long time, he began to get the idea that I was more stubborn than he was. Eventually, I had him walking with his head slightly right and his shoulder and body stepping a bit laterally to the left.
I had to use my body against his to get the right shape, though. I have done this with youngsters before, using my hip and shoulder against them as another horse might to put them where they belong. Chance, unlike Toby and Tucker, seems to require much more physical command sand contact from me. At this point, he really doesn't seem to respond to aids unless they actually push his body where it belongs. Fortunately, his size allows me to work up close and maintain control over the rein aid at the same time, something I find almost impossible with 16.3h Tucker. Since this somewhat unorthodox method seemed to work, I will do in hand exercises for a few more days before I try riding him again. It's pretty clear he doesn't have George's will to please, so it looks like I have some serious schooling to do.
I ended the evening with a short school for Tucker. Unlike the last time I rode him, he was tentative about going forward at the start. Even though we were just walking, he was looking for things to spook at. First the barrel, then the water trough, then...well, who knows. I didn't reassure him about any of it, but just pushed him forward with a bit of verbal reminders. I spent most of the ride just doing one transition after another. First it was walk/halt/walk. Then trot/walk/trot. The trot/halt/trot. Then canter/trot/canter, canter/walk/canter, and then canter/halt/canter, with a turn on the haunches before the second canter depart. I did a few leg yields and then moved to half pass at the trot, managing a fairly nice effort on each rein. I did some trot, reinback trot and finally a trot/halt/trot on the center line as is required in most of the tests I ride. Then I called it a night.
Toby was actually willing to be caught, perhaps because I told him I wasn't going to ride, so we had a nice little grooming session with a big fat carrot at the end.
The footing is postively lovely and the ground has dried out quickly. I know it's supposed to rain later in the week, but for now, I will bask in the sunshine and enjoy the warm (upper 50's f) weather.