I have been struggling with the two horses he is:
- the round, striding, hock-using, back-moving one he is on the longe with the sliding side reins and
- the up-headed, leg-moving, hind-flinging runner he is under saddle without the side reins
Assuming that most of the latter was caused by the challenge of hauling my indelicate carcass around on his youthful back, I've been quite concerned and a bit stymied about how to make more of horse A show up under circumstance B.
Well, one simple change I could make would be to ride in the side reins.
Holy 180 degrees of difference, Batman!
Under saddle, with the sliding side reins to balance him, he is a round, forward, hock-moving, power everything horse. He is, quite literally, another ride altogether. It wasn't just my carcass; it was his balance and inexperience. At his age, he chose to manage balancing a rider by carrying his head up, way up, and charging forward. Once his trusty friends were there to hold the bit for him and give him a reassuring range of supported positions, he engaged with the contact, tracked up, rounded up, and gave me the good stuff.
At the end of the second day's very good, very energetic, very hot-and-sweaty hard work session, I took the side reins off to ride him out of the arena and down to the barn.
Inverted swan time; up his head went, out his hind end went, and noodle we doodled all over the lane.
So, for the time being, while he's building strength, balance, and confidence, we shall ride with the sliding side reins in place.
A side note: his confidence and his eagerness to work hard just kick my ass. He has a drive for more, a thirst for hard work, that just cannot be quenched. The three phases of any new exercise with him are:
- What the hell is that about?
- Show me again-- how do you do that?
- No, WAIT, I want to do it AGAIN because I can do it BETTER!
The whole scenario takes about five minutes, and once he's gotten it, he's volunteering it. Today he immediately went to work and attempted the exercise we finished Tuesday's ride with, picking up the irregular pattern before I was even finished warming up my hips and adjusting my stirrups.
I don't think I'll ever be able to practice a dressage test with him; he'll know it and anticipate the hell out of it.
Boy Wonder, indeed.