I bring him in the barnyard while I do other things 3-4x/week. He has his feet done regularly and gets supplemental grain to the grass/hay in the field. I groom him. And I always eff around with him, making a point do do ridiculous things in his presence to gauge his response and make him realize very little in the world is out to get him. (Overall he handles this better than Q.) And I've promised him when he's in better shape this summer he can pony with us again - I don't want a repeat of the last time of misery. -_-
I'm content to let him really be a youngster the vast majority of the time right now - playing in the field with his friends, but I have started to try work him US 1x every two or three weeks. The sessions are short 20-30 minutes and preceded by groundwork. We've had two of these so far.
He's such a little star. Seriously. We've mostly been working on responding to pressure from the bridle/my legs. Lots of transitions from walk-stop, lots of turning, lots of backing. Kid stops like a champ. He's also far more responsive off leg pressure than anything. He's really a joy to work with (says the girl who's had minimal experience starting youngsters) compared to Pegasus a few summers ago.
|Looking pretty sharp in Q's purple|
The first ride (3 weeks ago now) we worked exclusively in the outdoor round pen. He focused in on the fact that that area means work and he was very forward and focused. I was pretty proud of how he handled everything.
Monday night was the second session. Groundwork first. A slow moving Griffin, focused on me and not other distractions. Good boy. I welcomed him to join me in the middle of the ring, checked the girth and hopped on up. Did I mention this horse stands like a freaking ROCK? 'Cause he does. I swear he must have been some kind of kickass horse in a previous life.
We walked and reversed and circled and figure eighted and stopped and goed and stopped and goed. I was in my t-shirt but as the sun drifted down toward the horizon bit by bit I decided I wanted my jacket. It had been hanging on the fence and Griffin had been trying to grab it and play with it each time we passed close enough to it. So I figured, well, why not, lets try to just grab it while mounted.
Ha. As if.
We walked up to it. We stopped. Praised. Then I grabbed it. It came off the fence. No reaction. But as I lifted it up more as if to put it on little-mister rock solid came unscrewed. The rapid increase of speed as he bolted away underneath me unbalanced me, so I grabbed the top rung of the fence as he scooted forward and used it to stabilize my effort to vault out of the saddle. He basically ran out from underneath me and left me standing, laughing at my stupidity and his impressive speed.
I dropped the jacket and used my body language to stop him and have him come to me. He did, his eyes wide and accusing. I grabbed the jacket again and he tore away before you could say "go". Well, damn, clearly I needed to approach this more aggressively as far as anticipating his actions. I grabbed a rope halter and lead that were nearby. He stopped and walked to me again. I put them on. And then we played the Liz-is-gonna-twirl-the-jacket-monster-and-make-absurd-noises-for-effect-and-you're-gonna-get-used-to-it game. Aaannnd in less than 3 minutes he didn't care again.
I put my jacket on and mounted back up. We walked, turned, reversed, stopped, goed. And then I flapped my jacket while wearing it. He tensed. His ears flipped back focusing on me. His step faltered, but he kept forward motion. Good boy! We did this a bit more until he was uncaring.
I dismounted. We walked out of the round pen and into the barnyard (another, larger fenced area). I mounted back up and we walked around out there for a bit. Walked over ground poles in addition to all the other activities we'd been pursuing. It was nice to have the bigger space. He really extended that walk of his. His walking horse genetics stand out in that walk. Only on a gaited horse have I felt the hind end moving like that, really striking forward underneath his body.
He's TW in his walk, but his trot definitely isn't that of a gaited horse. There ain't no gait. He popped into his little trot numerous times in our big circle of the barnyard. (And he transitioned quickly and easily back to the walk every time I asked - because kid doesn't get to trot much for awhile, no sir.) He was so peppy - but not in a ermahgerd-I-want-to-run-and-buck way. It was just this eager forwardness...especially when we got to the pole he'd been walking over. He wanted to do that again and again. I've never ridden a horse that tried to turn toward an obstacle like that.
I'm so pleased with the horse he's becoming. We'll continue to take it slow and I'm certain he'll be a superstar in years to come.