Since I don't have Kaswyn to ride recently, I've been riding a new horse at the barn. His name is Fire, a 13 year old purebred Arabian gelding, and he was an Arabian English Pleasure horse at his last barn. His owner is a good Friend of Marge's and she moved Fire to our place because she was having issues with her previous trainer. She asked if I would ride him saddle seat, and I told her no, that I would do dressage or nothing. She hesitated, saying that he was fully trained in saddle seat, and Marge told her "Don't be stupid! Let her ride him dressage! It's not going to hurt him!". So the owner agreed.
My first ride on him was interesting. First, he is very out of shape, with a hay belly and a body full of hair. While I was grooming him, I went to pick his feet and when I stuck the hoof pick into the groove next to the frog, it sunk in deeply with a squishing sound and black smelly goo oozed out. Three of his four feet were like this, signalling a terrible case of thrush which I treated immediately. I tacked him up with Susan's old dressage saddle (which fits him surprisingly well) and Albert's french link snaffle bridle. I started by lunging him and he was totally freaked out. I felt so bad for him. He was scared and convinced that I was going to beat the tar out of him.
I spent a lot of time just talking him through the lunging and trying to get him to calm down a bit. I'm sure his last trainer wanted him all snorty and blowing so he would trot high, but instead of doing this with relaxed, focused energy he was doing it with anxiety and fear fueling his motion. When he finally seemed like he was at least able to handle the situation, I got on. Now, I always use the mounting block to get on a horse. Fire, however, was not used to this and wanted nothing to do with the mounting block. So that first time we just took a bit of time to look at and smell the mounting block, and then I (*gasp*) got on him from the ground.
When we started to walk, the poor boy was beside himself. He was champing at the bit, and not in a good chewing the bit kind of way, but seriously champing with his lips curled back, mouth gaping, with his head bobbing and neck straight up in the air. I tried to stay out of his mouth as much as possible and we just walked for a long time with me patting him and scratching his withers. Eventually he put his head down and I praised him a bunch. Soon he was putting his head down for short periods of time and he would get big love from me.
When I thought he could take it I asked for the trot on a 20 meter circle. We had gone twice around when he stopped suddenly and stomped his back foot forcefully at me. I asked him to trot again, and after another circle again he stopped and stomped at me. Not cool little horse, but I'm not going to do what you expect me to do. I had no spurs and no whip, so I just nudged him forward. He trotted a few steps this time, and then I got another stomp. I nudged him again, but this time instead of trotting he threatened to rear. He didn't actually go up, but he raised his shoulders and hopped his front end up. That time what he got back from me was a two legged 4-H type of kick (you know, the kind of kicks that you see kids giving their stubborn ponies?). Message received, he trotted on like a good boy.
I've done three more rides on him since then and they have all been really nice. He's had his feet done and the thrush is just about gone, and I can now use the mounting block. That first ride I wrapped him with polos on all four legs, and since then I have left him unwrapped. Perhaps the stomping was because he's not used to being wrapped. Since then there has been no more stomping of feet at me, which I like. Mentally, Fire is really coming along. He doesn't get the whole "go to the bit" thing yet, but he doesn't have his head in the air anymore and isn't scared to work. In fact he is curling away from the bit a little too much, so I have been very giving with the reins in hopes that he will stretch to the bit and meet me halfway. We'll see how that goes.
When I start riding Kaswyn again I know I won't have time to ride three horses in one evening, so someone is going to have to go. It's probably going to have to be Fire, unless is owner can come out and help get horses ready for me and put them away. I don't know if she can do that, so I don't know how long I'll be able to ride him. But this little horse has a lot of potential. He has a very nice walk, lots of movement in his back end, and as soon as he learns to free up his shoulders he'll have a lot of movement up front. It's too bad I won't have time for him. He seems sweet and very fun.
Too many horses, not enough time! Isn't that the cry of most horse people?