Getting back in the saddle: Good cop, bad cop

My week two update is a bit late. Monthly deadlines came a bit quicker than I thought and I have spent the last week and a bit running around like a headless chook. BUT with all articles finished and only 2 awaiting approval from the farmers I have a few minutes spare to blog.

After an up and down first week, week 2 seemed to go marginally better! Mr ‘ants in his pants’ has calmed down a lot when he’s tied up and generally, will stand still for grooming and tacking up. His attempts to use me as his personal scratching post have diminished and over all his ground manners have improved so much. He’s even learnt to pick his feet up automatically when I start picking them out – clever clogs.

‘The gate’

But again, as we make headway with one issue we encounter another. Flynn decided that he would see how far he could push the boundaries. The fuss he makes in the arena when we are near the entrance is akin to that a 3 year old makes they don’t get there way. Although I have never experience any form of rearing from him, there were times I felt he could if he wanted. At times he became quite unpredictable around the gate.

After a few ‘oh shit’ moments, I found a solution. Leg. Lots and lots of leg.During the first week I put a lot of emphasis on getting him to respond to pressure changes from my leg – firstly this is good technique and secondly, he’s not overly responsive to the reins at times which was further emphasised by the gate situation. Trying to pull him around with the reins to move away from the gate is a fruitless endeavor but apply some leg pressure and he will eventually get the message.

The dreaded trot poles

I want to say we mastered trot poles in week 2, but we really didn’t. We got quarter of the way there.His stubbornness comes out in spades when hes faced with something he doesn’t want to do, or isn’t sure how to do. Although I was told he could do x,y,z things I remain unconvinced.

Our first venture through trot poles we semi-jumped over two of them and side swiped the rest. Round two he darted out at the last minutes. Round three, we walked over them. Round four, we just stopped at the first pole.

After a few days of working on it, he got the hang of trotting through trot poles. What we didn’t have the hang of was keeping the same pace . Slow trot in, zoom out. At least we now have an accelerator pedal.

Energy to burn

He has energy in spades this week! Although he still tends to keep his head low at a trot to extend his spine out as he develops the muscles to keep everything where it should be, he doesn’t require quite as many kick on’s. Getting a grip on this energy and controlling it will perhaps be the next phase for us. Although he has the get up and go for cantering, the few attempts I made this week at cantering I , rightly or wrongly, pulled the plug on pretty quickly. why?

Firstly, he’s unbalanced in his trot still, which will likely translate to unbalanced in the canter. He has a lot of pep and wants to just GO, at the risk of coming off and losing the confidence I have, I want to wait until I can handle his energy better.

Secondly, a big focus considering I have him pegged for dressage is I want all the transitions we do to be seamless (or in that general space). At the moment we are near stumbling into canter and that’s just not how I want to start out with him.

And lastly, we are still working on the basics. People may say I need to ‘grow some balls’ and just do it. BUT, we are both still learning, and having a good foundation and getting the basics right is far more important than nailing the canter just yet.

How to harness that energy?

Even though he hates it, lunging will be how we counteract this. I am not in the habit of lunging him before a ride and perhaps I should be, just to get rid of a little energy before we get into proper work. He generally takes awhile to get his ‘head in the game’ so perhaps this could be a solution for that too.

The horse that was scared of everything

He seems to have a bit of a nervous disposition. When he gets nervous he sticks to me like glue. Given his size, this isn’t ideal. Although he copes far better with new people, sounds and things in his environment, he still seems ‘on edge’ a lot of the time. Our solution for this is trusty magnesium, which acts as a calming agent, much like it does for humans.

Good cop, bad cop

I often wonder sometimes if having a horse is like having a child sometimes. Over the weekend, the boyfriend and I took advantage of the sunny weather and went out together for a ride. I popped him on Flynn first and attempted to teach him some basics of riding. (Never try and teach your spouse/boyfriend ANYTHING, arguments may follow). The boyfriend lacks a bit of confidence in the saddle and so is nervous to pull Flynn into line when hes being a prick, or not doing what he wants. As a result, Flynn gets to walk around and do what he likes.

When I then hop on, all the schooling of the past days goes out the window and Flynn decides because dad let him get away with things, I will too. Nice try buddy! Hopefully with time (and a little teaching on the boyfriends part) this won’t always be the case.

The boyfriend is very much the good cop, and even though I feed him every day and bring him treats, I am the bad cop. Great.

End thoughts for the week

-We are making progress! It might be slow and not at the pace others would like, but its progress.

-He’s much easier to handle on the ground which has meant the boyfriend is happier and more confident in handling him.

-He’s still putting on weight. I will start him on ‘muscle max’ supplement to help boost muscle gain.

-Even though he has hissy fits I have been able to pull him into line every time and been able to finish the ride on a good note.

-He has his sweet moments

-I am enjoying it!

Our focus moving forward is going to be controlling his energy, which might mean a trying out a few new bits of tack or just applying more leg!

I also want to start doing some ‘fun’ things so that Flynn doesn’t always think that being tacked up means doing some hard work.

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