Reno’s training is primarily as a driving horse. I believe he has been ridden sporadically by some kids, but no formal training. He’s got a pretty cooperative personality, so I didn’t think it would be huge deal to get him going undersaddle. I also felt I could help him rebuild his topline and atrophied musculature in his haunches putting him through some low level dressage maneuvers such as ‘shoulder in’.
Our first ride was mainly a ‘meet and greet’ event. Teaching him to pick me up at the mounting block and stand quietly. Walk, simple turns, stop, back up. By the end of the session we were doing some walk-trot transitions as well. What I learned about him is that his driving experience had set-him up well to understand rudimentary rein cues undersaddle. I had to reinforce leg and seat cues with the verbal cues he already knew…kiss, whoa, back up, easy, etc….in the beginning, but he very quickly understood what I was asking. We ended our first ride by taking a leisurely, trail ride back to the barn. He balked at a gate and at the pigs, but easily moved past these obstacles with alittle squeeze from me. Above, pictured by the chicken coop. It was an exceptionally good first ride.
During our second ride, I was pleased to find he had remembered our mounting lesson….he walked over and parked himself next to me on the mounting block. Some people might take mounting a horse for granted and not spend too much time training for it, but when it comes to mounting an 18 hand horse, you really do want him to stand still and wait for you. Besides which, a horse that has the tendency to walk off when you are mounting is also likely to move their feet at other times when you don’t want them to.
Anyhow, the riding portion of our second ride concentrated on patterns…cloverleaf and circles…walk and trot with lots of transitions. Once the patterns were solid, we cantered in both directions. He had a hard time cantering in a circle and believe it or not his right lead was his favored lead. With the injured leg being the left hind I would have thought the left lead would be more comfortable. Hmmm…interesting. His canter is very smooth and has a rocking horse feel to it…very nice. Again another leisurely walk back to the barn.
Today was our third ride and my goal today was to introduce ‘shoulder in’, which is a great exercise to build up strength in the haunches and connect the hind end to the front end. We warmed up in the cloverleaf, walk trot and I really concentrated on keeping him soft in the bridle especially in the turns. Then we went on the tackle ‘shoulder in’…which I started as a ‘counter shoulder in’ using the fence to block his forward movement. I wasn’t looking for the finished product, just for him to step over and under his body with the (in this case) outside hind. It took abit to get the point across, and then we had a few good strides of it. It was clear that this was hard for him, so we didn’t work at it for too long. The bugs were atrocious so as soon as he felt confident about what we were doing, we skidaddled out of the arena and went for a bonafide hack…off the farm and into the surrounding fields. It was lovely to trot through some long stretches of fields then we looped back through the woods toward home. He was solid as a rock!
At this point it will be a challenge to keep him working at a level that is therapeutic for him without being too taxing, but so far so good…