Preferences Made Clear
Curious rides today, but certainly, my horses make their opinions known.
I was thinking of schooling in the arena, but it was such a sunny, lovely day, that thought deteriorated as I saddled up. Tucker was first, and I decided to give him a short work in the arena and then go out into the woods.
Now, to set the stage. There is a water trough in the arena since I use that area for turnout on wet days. We circled the track, got to the trough, and Tucker stopped dead. He laid his ears back and balked when I urged him on. I loosened the rein and he dropped his nose into the trough and sloshed the water around. That was it. I turned him away, nudged him on again and around we went until we got back to the trough. He balked, I let him slosh and then we went on. Third time around the same balk, but this time I pushed through a few strides when a light bulb went on in my head. I dismounted, pulled the bridle off, keeping the reins around his neck so I could hold him, and let Tucker reach down again into the trough. This time, he sloshed and then started drinking. He drank quite a bit, then lifted his head, turned back to me and let me put the bit back into his mouth.
I remounted and we rode around the arena at all three gaits in both directions with absolutely no problem again--no balk, no ears back, just go.
So, Tucker was trying to tell me he was thirsty and simply could not work without first having a drink. Then, of course, he could not drink successfully with the bit in his mouth, so, while he couldn't exactly tell me that, I figured it out. It was a moment of listening to my horse and understanding what he was trying to tell me. We worked for a nice little bit and then went out for an equally nice ride in the woods. Tucker was a superstar out there, perhaps more than happy that I had listened to him about the drink.
Strangely enough, Toby seemed ready to go for a ride too, so I took him out next. Again, we took a nice ride through the woods. When we got back, I rode in the arena long enough to do some canter work just so we could do the flying changes together. Toby is a master of the flying change and they are so smooth and easy you hardly realize he's changed. It was a good reminder for me as to exactly how a change feels and how to cue for one.
Chance was last on the list, but far from the easiest today. He'd seen Tucker and Toby go out for a hack and was bound and determined to do the same. I would have taken him out, but he was far too excited, eager, and stubborn about it to go. Instead, I rode around the arena, first at a full speed trot with a bulging dive towards the woods gate each time we passed that. The canter on the right was hardly any better with leaning shoulders, out of balance rushing and rather dreadful steering. When I switched over to the left rein, the canter was a bit better, but the rushing and lack of balance were still there.
OK, there was a time when riding around at all three gaits would have tired him out and settled him down pretty quickly. Not so today. While he is not super fit, he is fit enough to express his opinion and keep up the "fizz" (as Muriel would say) for quite a while. I slowed him back to a walk, did some serious suppling with the reins until he finally decided to give to the bit and drop his head into a round frame and started off again.
This time, things were a lot better, though far from the best he has ever done. But the right canter had settled, needing much less correction and the left canter was excellent. Although I didn't time the ride, I suspect it took at least 30 minutes for Chance to get over his nonsense and start actually listening to me instead of the "Call of the Wild Woods." I did not reward him with the trail ride he wanted. While I do love taking him out, I will not do it when he is in charge. He will have to be obedient to the aids first and foremost.
Today, he was definitely not the kind of horse a young rider would enjoy. For a while, there, he wasn't the kind of horse any rider would enjoy. He never felt dangerous, but having to argue with him was certainly not fun.
Ah, well. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was grateful to have three sound horses to ride and, as it turned out, the skill to ride them.
Hope your day had as much success.