Saturday, September 17, 2016

Head to head

When I first got Chinaman he was blown away by how straight forward and easy he was to teach. He ate up new information and so quickly and happily adapted to being a sport horse. Sure he was on the forehand and he fell out but he was so trainable and I knew these things would come. He was a little lean and it's hard to build muscle on a lean horse so it's taken me a long time to get him up to weight and remuscling but he's really making progress.

Not the best picture I have managed to hide the ribs quite well.

He got poorer with more work and I really struggled to get weight on and hold it. Now he's up to weight he's holding really well, and mostly it's due to feeding Dunstan muscle and shine which is an incredible product.

Definitely a little more booty and a lot more bloom in the coat. But now he's looking and feeling stronger, he's such a dick. He just knows every bloody thing and I have very nicely been training him and being slow and soft. The last few weeks I have been so stuck in a flatwork rut. Honestly, I have put schooling on a lot of young horses. I can ride a little and have never felt so much like I was getting no where. 

He's a massive faker. He's quick to drop at the poll but he's still tight in his back and base of his neck. When he softens his back, he feels so good underneath me. I can hardly stay with his trot it's so lofty. But I have to make sure I get him all the way relaxed.

See I've been practising for ages!

Connie was amazing to ride. So soft and adjustable. So well schooled! So I know I can produce a horse. So why am I so stuck with this one so easy, so trainable horse. I have to say I have left a gaping hole in his training, in seeking softness and relaxation, I have sort of failed on training the brakes. Which hasn't been such an issue because he was easy, but now he's testing me some it's reared its big ugly head. 

As a rider I will always reward the try. I don't mind if it's minuscule, but the smallest soften, sideways step or half halt will get a soften. Obviously as you go on you expect a little more and now I do ask a lot more of China. I want him to stay relaxed and soft at all three gaits, to respond to a half halt, travel straight in his body and start shifting more weight onto his hindquarters. It's fair for his level of training. If he Gets unbalanced that's ok, and I would rarely ride for more than twenty minutes. 

This week has been a debacle though. He's a lot weaker to the left which is understandable because he has an old SI. Injury on that side so it's harder for him to load the right hind. And all horses tend to be one sided. So the walk and trot work was pretty good and I thought I'd just work on the left canter and call it quits for the day because it was getting dark. 

Then I find that whenever I half halt, or steady him, or rebalance, or simply change pace within the gait, the reaction I got was a crossed jaw, head thrown up and him bolting with a locked neck. Awesome. Which is of course not ok. So we ended up having some head to heads, times where I circled him off the straights quite hard, and circled until he stepped under and unlocked his jaw, and also had to pull him to a halt a few times. I really really struggled not to lose it and I made sure to reward the try every time even if it was less than I wanted. It was so frustrating when I really felt like he was past this level of disobedience. Then of course it gets harder because he starts to get tired as well, but eventually he gave me two lovely soft circles and stayed soft and in the bridle down the long side without taking off and I called it a day. It was well dark by this time and he had gotten worked a lot harder than expected. 

The next day I knew I was going to have go back over it, but I started with the right canter after I warmed up because it's so much easier for him. He bucked his first ten transitions and was as bad as  the day before when I worked on his weaker rein. I really really hate it when I horse just absolutely blows through the bridle, at least try to steady. Even if you break to a trot try show some obedience.  So we had the same argument on a different tein with plenty of flailing and falling out the shoulder and rugged as half halts. Te pressure being lifted until I got the right response. Finally got him working and listening, staying soft in the circles and the long sides and coming back to me after a little lengthen. Picked up the left canter and he was really good so I was able to stay really soft on him and I called it a night. Again it was a long ride and we were both knackered. 

I messaged my trainer in absolute despair. And she was pretty encouraging.

And she's so right he does have to respect me. I've been really soft on him but he needs to come to the party a bit more and not throw his toys and run when it gets a bit hard or doesn't go his way. He just has to try. 

The third night I turned up to do battle and he was gorgeous. Stunning leg yields, beautifully over the back and cantered quietly and round on both reins with good response to the half halt at the end of the lengthen down the long side. So I did ten minutes max and then took him for a hack an have myself a good pep talk. I'm ok I still got this, I'm not going to ruin him.


  1. That last paragraph really hit me, I'm so afraid of ruining my young horses! But you're also right - you've got this :) It's amazing how different of a ride they are once they're a nice weight and feeling good (my 17 year old is my sassiest creature to ride after being treated for ulcers)... which threw me off bigtime!

  2. That photo of you as a kid is so cute - you're like the size of your pony's neck!
    I'm feeling the 'I'm ruining my horse' atm. Was lying in bed this morning trying to figure out how long until I pack in this stupid riding thing, sell my horses and pick up an easier hobby like stamp collecting.

  3. I honestly 100% get this. Don't get discouraged! AS you said, you know you can make a horse, he's just being difficult. I love how you said you reward the try. Love. I think repetition will be your key with him since eh is being so sassy. You got this!

  4. Rewarding the try is my motto too. Seems like it's getting thru to China too, even if slowly :)