One of my all time favorite things about riding and training and working with various horses has been those moments where things just click into place and they start to reward your efforts with even the smallest of gives. I haven’t talked a lot about Skipper here on the blog, but that’s because there hasn’t been a ton to say. We’ve had some really good rides I’ve blogged about in the past but over all most of our rides are still more frustrating than not.
Not because he’s bad, honestly he’s actually good. Or he tries to be really good. Mostly I find them frustrating because he’s been so out of shape, and he’s not entirely sure about what I’m asking him to do, he’s got some confidence issues, and all of that combined together just makes a horse who will give me an effort towards what I want but it’s always been a small effort.
Still, this winter he’s lost quite a bit of weight (and looks a whole lot better for it) and I’ve noticed too that with that weight finally gone he’s actually able to do the things I’m asking him to do… well for the most part. I rode him on Friday, rather than Bella, and we had probably our quickest ride to date.
My goal right now is to get him moving forward and to reward him when he really does what I ask by just calling it a day quickly. I want him to realize that riding is going to be easy peasy as long as he doesn’t fight me too much on it all.
So on Friday I took him out and we warmed up at the trot like usual. It was probably the first ride where I’ve gotten more than 2 or 3 steps with him in a frame at the trot. Granted I got like 4 or 5 but that’s major improvement for a horse who is learning how to carry himself in a frame and developing those back muscles. He’s still locking his jaw some and really making me work to get him to bend but it’s still worlds better than it was.
The canter was actually great. He did swap leads on me at the very end of his weaker direction but I’ve learned to expect that when he starts to get tired and just brought him to a trot and changed directions in a small effort to try to make sure he knows there’s got to be a separation between his leads right now. But I am glad he can change his leads on his own because at least he’s got that balance going for him even under muscled and a bit pudgy.
Trying to train this old (he’s 20 now I think), out of shape, Appendix QH (heavy on the QH) to do basic easy dressage has been a huge challenge. It’s been a really fun one too though. Skipper is so smart and so sweet, I’ve taken a lot of time off with him to just ride Bella and hang out with him some. He gets showered in kisses and love and he knows it. Besides the in-saddle work I’ve done a lot just to work with him on letting me catch him, he still tries to back away when he realizes I’m putting the lead-rope over his neck, but it’s so much less now than it used to be.
I love progress. However much or however little it is. Sometimes it’s frustrating when it doesn’t come as quickly as I would like but I’m so grateful to see the little bit of progress that I do. I rode him again on Sunday and he was great, but I didn’t expect much else out of him after his Friday ride.