Baby Games

It was beautiful today, in the low 60’s and the sun came out for the afternoon. I had left the boys without their sheets, figuring they’d play in the mud but they’d rather be dirty than sweating under a sheet.  As I drove in, I could see that Liam had taken full advantage of the situation, and was a most disgusting mess. Prepared for the worst, I hiked down to Remy’s paddock, and was thrilled to find him relatively clean.

I brought Remy in and got him cleaned up. I wanted to work more on getting the walk/trot work solid, and build his strength for adding canter work. I tacked him up and we walked around the arena on a loose rein for a few minutes, then I picked up some contact and started doing medium walk – free walk transitions. I also worked on steering him around while in a free walk, and he did quite well. Then we started trotting around, and suddenly he was looking at the light coming in under the door like he wanted to spook at it. As we rode closer, sure enough, he hesitated under me, as if testing my reaction, then he started to shift away from the door. I sat up and put my inside leg on strong, leg yielding him a step closer to the door.  Spook averted.

We trotted around, did some circles and diagonals, then there it was again. He was looking at the door, preparing to spook. As we got closer, he started to bulge against my inside leg.  “Remy!” I growled at him. Immediately, his attention relocated to me and he trotted past the door without a care. But then, only a few minutes later, his pony brain was back thinking about spooking, this time at the other door! I kicked him hard with my spur, tired of this new game. His head came up for a moment in surprise, then it went right back down into very humble pony working very hard posture. But then a minute later, his attention again strayed to the door.

I had had it. I knew he wasn’t really scared of the door. It was a game he was playing. He was probably bored of trotting circles and diagonals, and I couldn’t blame him.  I started taking the quarter line and leg yielding him towards the door. This change of pace got his attention back focused on me, but still seemed too easy an exercise without asking him for more than he was physically capable of doing. As we rounded the corner, I surprised him again, this time asking him to canter. His head came up and his ears flicked back.  Now I had his attention. “Yes, you heard me right,” I said. “Canter!”

He cantered off and I settled back into the saddle, enjoying his lovely gait. Even though he wasn’t on the bit and isn’t strong or balanced enough to bend in the corners or hold together much of a dressage canter, his canter is just Heavenly.  He is very balanced for an unbalanced greenie, and he moves with such uphill strides that he feels collected even just going along on his own. I smiled and enjoyed the ride.   His ears never strayed from me.

Half way around the arena, he started to breathe heavier, then he started to feel like he wanted to stop. But I was just getting started. If he had energy to spook at nothing, he had energy to work. I started to ask him to move off my inside leg and to reach for the bit. He started to stretch down to the contact, again giving me the “humble cooperative pony just wants to stop” feeling, but I was having too much fun.  Finally after endless torture a full lap and a half around the arena (cutting off corners of course), I asked him for a trot transition which he promptly gave me. He quickly went to shift all the way down into a walk, but I put my leg on and made him do a few circles by the spooky door. He didn’t even look at it, didn’t even think about trying anything. So I let him walk and gave him a big pat.  Such a good boy!!

After a little break, we trotted a some more and then cantered the other direction. He was done with his games and gave me his full attention. He’s a very quick study and has a great work ethic, but I think right now his brain is ahead of his body. He understands the aids for leg yield and shoulder-in, but I really think that he physically still needs more time with the basics.  I will have to get more creative though, since 20 meter circles have apparently become boring.  Time for more difficult patterns? Or more transitions? Maybe some work over trot poles? One things for sure, it’s time to make his job a little more interesting for him 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Baby Games

  1. I had to giggle! This sounds JUST like what my 4 year old pulled on Thursday. lol!!! He got a little more naughty (threw in a buck) but he kept spooking at one corner in the arena he 1) has never spooked at before and 2) didn’t even bat an eyelash at the next day I rode him there. Greenies!!!

    • Steph, it is the same exact game! And you DID ride through it… remember when you worked him in the scary corner until he was good, then he started being stupid about the other corner? You tapped him with the whip and he walked right through the corner with no nonsense 🙂

  2. I have the same issue with Jackson. He needs to be busy in the brain or he thinks of ways to resist or otherwise create “interest.” It’s challenging to keep things interesting since he’s still working on the basics of straight and balanced. Funny horses!

  3. This post is quite timely for me. I rode a lesson horse yesterday who decided that since another lesson horse had spooked at one spot on the wall that he then needed to do it *every* time we passed it. Ticked me right off. Sadly when I get mad I get handsy and didn’t use enough leg. Your post is a good reminder to me that legs always trump hands.

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