Saturday, September 19, 2015

cute new friend

Bali is a green bean baby OTTB that joined the lesson program at my barn earlier this year. He's mostly a pretty good guy and there are a few lesson students who ride him well. However he was quite thin when he arrived and now that we've finally managed to put weight on him, he's a little more... er.. expressive with his opinions on things.

how cute is that face?
A few undesired behaviors started creeping in - like napping and bucking and kicking out under saddle (and also on the ground - he's cute but he kicks). There was some concern that it might be pain related so he's had some time off. But the horse is sound and appears in good shape so the next step is to put more miles on him and leg him back up.

blurry bc he's hoping sugar cubes will happen
My general hypothesis is that he's at heart a very lazy horse, and he figured out how to use speed and other behavioral tactics to get students to back off from making him work. But he's got a sweet disposition (aside from the kicking, obvi) and has the potential to be a great mount for the advanced lesson students.

waiting around like a seasoned veteran at his first xc schooling last spring with barn mate R
The lesson program director R has been too busy to actually get back into the saddle with him lately (she took him to his first event this summer, where I believe they finished 5th on their dressage score in BN) and I offered to pick up the slack.

See, I used to ride a huge variety of horses all the time. At the h/j barn where I took lessons until last summer, I rode a different horse every week. And I LOVED it. Building a relationship with one horse and moving towards a joint goal has been gratifying and my riding has certainly progressed, but nothing keeps you honest as a rider quite like riding different horses all the time.

R says he's super fun to jump
So I'm really eager to add Bali to my weekly riding mix - hopefully with 2-3 rides per week to start, maybe decreasing to 1-2x as he gets back into lessons. Not sure how long it'll last but I plan to enjoy it in the meantime!

Our first ride went mostly ok. I tend to be a little conservative with new horses, and spent a while feeling out how far he could be pushed. He seems to start out SUPER tight in his back (esp relative to Isabel) and his head goes in every direction all at once. I just focused on riding his shoulders and hind end - asking for longer and looser walk steps and not worrying about where he put his nose.

It was kinda funny tho - I sought to keep him more or less even between the reins which required fairly wide-set hands, and it made me that much more appreciative of Isabel. Keeping her even between my reins has been a priority lately too, but I don't have to do anything crazy with my hands - it's just a matter of using my legs to push her where she has to go.

he and isabel are actually about the same size around - i use the same girth and everything - tho he's much taller
I also figured out that the big sticking point with Bali is 'forward.' Once I got him walking a little better (after 5-10 minutes) and asked for trot, he napped back and tried to say 'No!' But after working at it for a little while and successfully getting a reasonable trot, I went back to working on walk-trot transitions and things smoothed out considerably.

Ride number two showed improvement - only took a couple minutes to get more swing in his step and he was more accepting of my leg. It, uh, helped that I opted to carry a dressage whip lol. He also steers quite well from the leg, which is useful bc I don't want to get handsy and restrictive with the reins regardless of whatever shenanigans he pulls. Forward must always be an open door for this guy.

We did simple w-t-c, with lots and LOTS of trot-walk-trot transitions. I was kinda surprised how quickly he tuned in, and while we did have a few episodes of kicking out, he was mostly pretty obedient. The left lead is stickier so that will need work, and he gets kinda dive-y in the canter, esp cutting in off the rail toward the center. I tend to circle a lot through the arena rather than sticking to the rail, but might need to watch that since most lesson kids will want him to stay on the rail and into his corners.

seriously too cute
By the end of the ride (which was itself quite short - he's not exactly in shape right now) he had a MUCH nicer walk - really covering ground and stretching down through his neck. He seemed much more comfortable. Honestly I think he's just kinda a tight horse who will need help loosening up.

So I have a couple ideas of what I'd like to work on with him. Nothing crazy - I want to limber him up a little bit, while also keeping the pressure low. The biggest goal is that he understands his job and feels good about getting it done safely and reliably. Should be fun!

27 comments:

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    1. Oh man so cute! And cuddly too! I can get my cuddle fix from him since izzy isn't into that noise lol

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  2. He is super cute. I love what you've described of his personality too, he seems like he's a smart boy!

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    1. I think he is pretty smart! Hopefully not *too* smart, or at least smart enough to recognize that this gig isn't so bad if he can play by the rules

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  3. Super cute. Excited to read your adventures!

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    1. i hope to have a few with him! we shall see :)

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  4. Lucky you and lucky BO who has someone like you to work on the lesson horses. You are so right, having the opportunity to ride multiple horses is a good thing. I find it helps me to stay mentally flexible and be more aware of my horse and how I affect their way of going, instead of getting stuck in a rut of going a certain way all the time.

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    1. oh man i am SO guilty of getting 'stuck in a rut' with my riding - hopefully switching it up will help me stay a little fresher lol

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  5. How fun! I agree, it's a blast to get to ride new horses- keeps you on your toes!

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  6. That's great that you get to ride a new horse! He is really cute - hope you can get to the bottom of the not-so-good behavior!

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    1. oh man he is so cute. i don't think the behavior is particularly mysterious - he's young and green and lazy, and figured out how to say "No!" hopefully i'll be able to help him understand that saying "Yes!" is easier.

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  7. Super fun! I think the BIGGEST advantage I have in consolidating my lessons is that I get to ride 10 different horses a week so I get to experiment dramatically. /how/ does this work for this horse, and /how/ do I need to continue working on myself? -Kathryn whose phone is acting impossible

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    1. haha i'm actually always super jealous of all the different cool horses you get to play with (esp since i miss it so much!)

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  8. Super cute! Forward is absolutely a button that needs to be installed on every horse. If that button is installed, it's easier to work through the bad behavior. Enjoy him!

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    1. he's turning out to not actually be supercomplicated. his first answer is usually "no" to get things started, but already just after 4 rides he's moving off the leg quite easily and is becoming less emphatically resistant

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  10. That's awesome to add anther ride into your repertoire! It can only help you grow I think :)

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    1. that's the hope!! perhaps isabel will appreciate it too lol

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  11. The OTTBs tend to want to be divey and come in off the rail. I've definitely noticed it in others that were being let down from the track. He's super cute though, and totally worth the effort IMO.

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    1. i think so too! fortunately most of my background is in ottbs (vs arabs - figuring out isabel was like learning an entirely new language, ugh) so his issues are pretty familiar to me

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  12. Sounds exactly like you rode my horse, hah!

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    1. lol hopefully your horse is more like bali on his good days vs on his bad days :)

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