So Courtney at An Equestrian Life and I have been very chatty for the past few months since I added her on facebook to ask about the market for pony babies (in case I decided that was a cross I wanted to pursue with Highness). I figured she has a pony and all the ponies I’d seen online were in her area of the state, so maybe she was the person to ask. We chatted about that for a while, I decided not to breed Highness at all this year, and one thing led to another and we were talking about her visiting me when she was on her way to visit family.
Well, the visiting of family didn’t happen, but that meant I had her to myself all weekend. 🙂 While Dave and Poffins certainly missed her, I thoroughly enjoyed her company this weekend. Jason was working, so we had all Saturday morning (while he was asleep) and all Saturday night (while he was at work) to ride horses, talk about riding horses, and giggle while eating way too much bean/avocado dip.
Courtney had expressed an interest in Copper’s bucking issue at the canter when we discussed it online prior to her arrival. When she got here, he was first on the agenda. She’d brought her own tack, a Cambridge dressage saddle and a M. Toulouse jumping saddle (I could be wrong, I just know it wasn’t a dressage saddle…lol) to feel more comfortable should he decide to be a twit. The M. Toulouse was too small for him, but the dressage saddle was a better fit. This sounded good to me, because any opportunity to try out additional dressage saddles before I commit to buying my own is appreciated. I hopped on him first to show her how he goes, then let her have the wild beast. Spoiler alert: he was anything but wild.
After riding him in the barn long enough to realize he’s a smart horse who is pretty in tune to his rider, she took him outside in the field. She did ride him with my token bright yellow crop to keep him thinking forward. The western pleasure training definitely has him in a different frame of mind, and the western pleasure walk that he’s adopted was transformed into a much more forward marching walk once she picked up the crop.
She and I had discussed previously that maybe instead of giving him canter signals at the speed he and I generally go (not very fast…), we should push him into a big trot then squeeze him up into it and see how he does. Basically he picked it up without issue. He didn’t pin his ears, swish his tail, or indicate that he had the slightest negative feelings about the transition. She cantered him numerous times, getting a variety of leads from him, but no attitude. We didn’t put as much emphasis on the leads as we did on cantering quietly since he’s out of shape and hasn’t cantered much in the last year or so.
At this point Courtney declared that it was my turn to ride. I knew from our talks before Saturday that she was going to make me canter him and I was quasi nervous, quasi giddy at the idea of cantering my horse again. So we went back in the barn (I’d left my helmet and the mounting block in there) so I could mount, then I rode him outside. As soon as I got on he kind of exhaled and went to lazy Copper at the walk. Courtney handed me the crop and his strides lengthened. She had me work him into his bigger trot, which came much easier with the crop. She told me that I had to canter him, but if he gave me 4 or 5 good strides, I could go back to the trot if I wanted to. So when I asked him to canter the first time he went into it nicely and got the correct lead. I asked him to a trot for the little downhill incline. A couple weeks ago R measured out a 20 meter circle in the field, so we were using it as a guide. Since my field is so hilly, it was inevitable that their would be an incline somewhere. Typically this little incline would’ve bothered me, but the next time I asked Copper to canter, I didn’t ask him to trot before the incline and we cantered the full 20 meter circle. I took a second to rest and talk to Courtney since I had yet to eat anything that morning and it was hot. I’m more cautious about that sort of thing after passing out at a strangers farm when horse shopping a couple of summers ago.
I continued to canter Copper a few more times and he was only on the wrong lead with me once. I let him drop to the trot, then when I asked the next time, he was correct again. I think he just needs to build muscle to be able to pick it up without having to try as hard. At this point I think we had all worked up a good sweat, so we let Copper be done for the day.
We decided now was a good time to go grab some lunch since we planned on riding in the heat more. When we got back from lunch the game plan was that I was going to ride Paige while Courtney rode Highness. When I pulled Paige in, she’d lost the shoe that was wobbly earlier in the week. My farrier is on vacation, and the back up farrier that I called must not want to help non-regular clients, because he never called me back either. I put Paige on the end of the lead rope and she was sore, so she got to eat a strawberry that I brought her from my lunch and get turned out. She was totally fine with that arrangement.
Highness rode well for Courtney, but wasn’t as finished as Courtney thought she would be. She’s basically w/t/c broke and quiet. She rode her for a little while and said that she preferred Copper of the two and realized why I did as well after riding Highness. We both agreed that she could be a nice horse for someone, but since my time is limited, it makes more sense for me to put time and effort into Copper and Paige.
Big thanks to Courtney for helping me work through my issues with cantering Copper. We still have a ways to go, but cantering him Saturday certainly helped me get past the mental block and remember how nice he is to canter.
I’ll be back with Part Two tomorrow. 🙂