It’s windy and cold and he thinks he knows how to do this because he learned some things yesterday. Stevie is a people pleaser and very generous. He gives me his all when I just want 5% of his effort but that’s a Thoroughbred for you!
He’s ready to go from the start and I must remind him to wait for me to ask. I know he is doing his best to contain himself. Yet another skill we need to develop. I try pulling him in to slow him as I did yesterday but today it doesn’t work nearly as well. I try giving it some time but finally admit it’s not the way today and let him out on a larger circle. I think use my voice to try to calm his strides. Small circles are physically hard for horses. If Stevie were younger, I would use other methods. I don’t do much trot or canter on the lunge with 3 and 4 year olds but Stevie is 12.
I sacrifice the roundness of the circle for slowing because I know I’m not going to get it all today. Some days you just aren’t going to get it all but you still must find success in the day. Low and behold Stevie offers a few strides of the most gorgeous trot. A small peek into the future!
Going to the right is more difficult but Stevie is doing his best. He wants to sold his balance problems by going faster and I am trying to convince him otherwise. We need to end on a success so I ask him to just walk – which is so hard for him because he’s feeling so good. I am patient and understanding of this and after a few tries, he finally walks the circle and we end on success.
Learning to contain himself when he’s feeling up is one of the most important skills he will need for his new career and like everything else, this will take time.
I expected an easier day for Stevie. Most mornings are quiet and there would be less challenges – or would there? A rider showed up early this morning to ride their horse before work. This horse has a breathing issue that can be quite loud. It was windy and cold and consequently, Stevie was UP. Earlier in his training, I would have made the decision to do something else, but at this point, Stevie is ready for challenges. It might not be the training session of our dreams but we can still make progress.
Stevie starts out in rocket ship mode which is not a surprise. I try to calm/slow him with my voice but then must bring him in on a smaller circle to supple and slow him. It works so he begins to relax a bit. He vacillates between rocket ship and trotting horse but this is acceptable and normal. He is only able to contain himself for short periods. A good gallop would solve the problem, but it would not develop his ability to contain excess energy.
All in all, he’s not as relaxed as I’d like but under the circumstances, going to the left is a success. Now for the right direction….
From the start, Stevie tells me, “Not today.” Going to the right is harder when the environment is more challenging. He needs more focus to put himself together to the right because it’s his difficult side. Left-handed, I’m asking him to write with his right hand while dealing with a major distraction. I continue to ask him to buckle down and get to work. “I know you can do this Stevie.” He continues to resist. I understand I am going to have to ask far less to end on success under the circumstances. Stevie needs to know that whatever he does, I will not lose my patience. I know he can do this, so I continue to gently ask. My goal goes from Stevie trotting to the right with relaxation, using his topline to Stevie trotting to the right with a hopeful hit of relaxation while a horse canters around loudly. It’s a great challenge to Stevie but he manages to come through and we end with success. I can’t wait for our next training session!
It’s worth mentioning at this point that I haven’t been lunging Stevie every day. In between lunge sessions, he hacks around the farm. It’s very difficult to video this, so we haven’t.
After several sessions at the trot. Stevie begins to develop the ability to relax and balance himself through shifting his weight back to toward the haunches rather than speeding up. This is in part because he is not as excited by the prospect of trotting and part because the circle is a suppling exercise and in his effort to stay upright, Stevie has stepped further under himself with his inside hind. He is just in the beginning of stretching his topline. You can see throughout the video, he relaxes, then stretches down and forward. I am pulling his head in to get him to let go in his poll. Racehorses brace their entire bodies. This makes them faster. Think of throwing a spear through the air as opposed to throwing a rope through the air. The rigid spear will travel much further than the rope. We need Stevie to let go of his body and relax so he can use his back to carry us and to find balance on these small 20 meter circles. As I get him to let go in his poll, he begins to let go in his body as the circle encourages him to step further under.
Observe the bounce and looseness that comes in his body as he lets go and relaxes, and uses his back. It is more difficult for Stevie to go to the right and I understand that so I don’t expect as much. I don’t worry about it because it will come. I will give Stevie the time he needs to physically develop.