I rode Baron on Tuesday and then had a lesson on Thursday. The ride went very well, the lesson not so much. On Tuesday, I rode in the round pen and did walk/trot transitions. It was probably the best ride I’ve had yet. I took him out of the pasture to ride, and sometimes this gets him agitated to the point that he spends the whole ride calling to his buddies across the fence. On Tuesday, however, he was relaxed and focused on me. He wasn’t rushing at the trot; he settled into a nice, even pace and paid attention when I half halted him. I was thrilled!
On Thursday, I trailered to another barn for a lesson in their big arena. He loaded onto the trailer perfectly and was much calmer than last time when we arrived at the other barn. That part went well. Trotting on the lunge line did not go well. He was rushing and seemed agitated. He was also holding his head up to avoid contact with the bit. The whole point of the lesson was for me to learn how to ride with contact. He was throwing his head in the air and hollowing out his back. At first my trainer, Mary, thought I was being heavy handed with him, hanging on the reins, and that this was causing his head to go up. So she got on him, and he did the same thing with her. So at least it wasn’t my poor riding ability that was causing him to evade the bit.
Mary’s first thought was that he has a sore back and is uncomfortable when being ridden, because he has not always done this. The evasive action would be a by-product of general discomfort under saddle. Her first advice was to get him adjusted. I got right on that; I’ve got a chiro scheduled to come out to the barn this Sunday.
Secondly, Mary suggested that I ride with a martingale for a while. I had some hesitation about this. I asked, “Does that really correct the problem or is it just masking it? When we take the martingale off, won’t he just go back to his bad habits?” Her answer was basically, “Not necessarily.” A martingale will help teach him to accept contact with the bit and help him learn how to move in a frame.
Mary’s other advice was to change my bit. I’m riding in a loose ring snaffle, the wimpiest bit out there. She said it’s like having a noodle in his mouth. This is the same bit I used on my lease horse, a 22 year old, perfect, bomb-proof mare. Riding Baron is a whole different ballgame. She suggested a slow twist, which isn’t a harsh bit, but will get his attention if need be. She said that my current bit is actually dangerous because I can’t stop him with it if I need to.
The lesson was somewhat discouraging. I basically have a horse I can’t control. I’m not going to get discouraged though, because I love a challenge. If I can turn my rushing, somewhat spastic, bit-evading ex-racer into a calm, forward, and straight dressage mount, that will be one of my biggest accomplishments EVER!