I might need to change my blog name now that I’ve got another horse. It’s not that I’m done training Baron (and let’s be honest, I’m the one who needs training), but Thunder needs more training than me or Baron. He is a PERFECT trail horse. If all I wanted to do was ride trails, he would be the best partner. I’ve never seen him spook or even get snorty and looky, even when he’s had plenty of reason to do so. He doesn’t mind kids, dogs, traffic or new situations. He’s got the best brain, exactly what you want for a kids’ horse.
As far as formal training goes, he’s got some major gaps. He knows that leg means forward, backward pressure on the reins means stop and sideways tug means right or left. I don’t get the feeling that he was ever ridden with any subtlety- not much use of the seat or leg aids.
He also has two gears- walk and canter. His old owner was a teenage girl who liked to ride him bareback and she liked to go fast. She must have had fairly decent balance to stay on, so I’m not saying that she was a terrible rider. I’m saying she did one thing- cantering. As far as I know, they never took many lessons, if any at all. If I get on and we’re walking and I add even the tiniest bit of leg pressure, boom, we’re cantering. This is what Thunder thinks he’s supposed to do and you’ve got to love him for trying.
He is also not very relaxed when I add leg. He is the most relaxed horse until I ask him to move out of a walk. Then his head comes up and he braces. He’s not naughty, I just get the feeling that he doesn’t understand what I’m asking and it makes him nervous.
Baron’s saddle doesn’t fit him at all and I’ve had to ride him in a Western saddle and English bridle until I find a saddle that fits him. He is so much rounder and wider than Baron, just a completely different type of horse. I know I look like a goofball in the mismatched tack, but it’s functional and it fits him well.
Our first rides have been as simple as can be. Mostly we walk with light contact. I add a tiny squeeze of leg and he canters. Then I try and half halt him down to a trot. He doesn’t really get half halting either. He thinks any pull on the reins, even just a squeeze, means walk or stop. He’s already making progress though. Yesterday we walked and trotted with only a few breaks into cantering. When he did canter, I was able to bring him back to a trot with a squeeze on the reins.
He is extremely high headed and bracey, just like Baron used to be. In both cases I know they’re just trying to figure out what I want. They’re both good horses with hearts of gold. I’m looking forward to riding Thunder and watching him progress. We all know how correct riding can transform a horse. He’s going to be one heck of a cute horse once he relaxes and learns how to carry himself!