I am very much an over-thinker. I think way too much, I am very critical of myself. And when my horse is misbehaving, I always blame myself and say, “If I was a better rider, I could make him behave all the time and he wouldn’t be doing ____.” or “If I was a good rider, I’d be able to make this horse be consistent and I wouldn’t have bad rides.” Which, is stupid, because every rider and horse have bad rides. Every horse has off days. Every horse has stubborn moments.
Red is a very stubborn horse by nature – if you want him to ride well, you have to really work for it. You don’t just hop on and kick and he goes and does everything on auto. If you want him to walk nicely, you have to stay out of his way, and DON’T touch his reins. If you want him to trot properly, you have to ride his trot well, if you bump into him too much, he will be very offended and stop. You have to ride him how he wants to be ridden. If you want him to canter, you have to mean business and work for it. If you do something that he doesn’t like, he will essentially just ignore you for the rest of the ride and glare at you. Literally. And sometimes I forget about this. Because he used to be a lesson horse, I think to myself, man…kids rode this horse and could handle him, and I can’t even get him to work well for fifteen minutes during a ride without him testing me. But I have to get it in my head that he was a very different horse then. He’s gained weight. He’s gained muscle. He’s comfortable. And Red, when he tests me, it may bother me for that ride, but it makes me a better rider because I can handle the tests. There hasn’t been a single ride that I haven’t been able to end on a good note and have several minutes of really nice work for whatever it is we were trying to do that day.
I rode yesterday. My nephew, the one who has the pony DS that stays at our place and has been taking lessons once a month, wanted to ride with me. His pony has been having some issues, possibly with ulcers, so we figured Red would be a good replacement for the day. Major downside – I don’t have a kids saddle that fits him, so my nephew, A, had to ride in my saddle that was obviously too large and he couldn’t reach the stirrups. Red used this as an excuse to blow him off. I got on first, of course, and I could tell he was having a stubborn day but after a minute of work, he was actually doing very well.I warmed him up, let him trot around the arena for a few minutes, then handed him over to A. It was a rough ride for A, but it was a good learning experience. A doesn’t know how to take control of a bigger horse, something he needs to work on. Red took advantage of everything he did, and A was pretty done with him after awhile, lol. I told him this is what I’ve dealt with for 3 years and he’s almost as big as me, so he could handle it. 😉 I got back on Red after about 15 minutes and showed A a bit more on what to do when he’s being bad, and to work him a little more.
I got on, the little jerk, and he was behaving fairly well. He has a habit of wanting to turn at the gate and just leave, so there were a few times when I had to push him out of that, but his trot was wonderful and he really was listening to my cues well. I ended up letting A double with me for a few minutes, then we let him back on alone and it was a bit better but Red was still getting away with way too much. So, mom decided to ride him. She hates riding Red, always has, she’s always said, “I know he is a nice horse. I know he can be a very nice horse, but he likes you and hates me.” and yeah, pretty much.
When mom got on, he was consistent as in he stayed in the same gait. But his trot was horrible and hollow, and he refused to actually be a good horse and show her how well he’s been doing. My mom stopped him and I told her, “You see how easy I make it look?” in a sarcastic tone and she just looked at me and literally said, “This horse is a hard horse to ride and you don’t give yourself enough credit, he actually obeys you and I don’t understand how to make him trot.” And coming from a rider like my mom…huge compliment. Huge.
So, when she was done, I mounted again, let Red walk it off, then asked for real work. And he was so gate sour it was driving me insane. And barrel sour..if that’s a word? He knows that he can run up to the barrels in the corner and I can’t push him forward because the round pen panels and I can’t make him go the direction I want because the stinking barrel is in the way, so the only other way is THE GATE. So I made him back, he got frustrated, he’d move forward, I’d back him again, and he finally started going the way I wanted.
Seeing my mom on him was actually a confident booster. A lot of times, I ride him and see improvement but I think to myself, he’s an easy horse, he’s a good horse, I didn’t do much to accomplish this. I’m terrible at tearing myself down, but the fact of the matter is this – I’ve been working with this horse for three years. In the last year, I’ve gotten serious with riding (moved him home!) and I’ve ridden more and worked with trainers on my EQ and I’ve stepped up to the plate like Red needed me to. Obviously, I’m still sucky on most days and my EQ is still on the struggle bus, but in the last year, this horse has changed so much for the better, and I’m the one who’s been riding him. He’s had one trainer ride. Other than that, and one 5 minute ride from mom, I’m the only one who’s ridden him this year. I hear my trainer tell me that most of his problems is just that he’s not fit (and this is probably a big problem with his stubbornness an lack of consistency, he’s just out of shape.) and he has a ton of potential, and I know that a year ago, three years ago, he was not that horse. He was not trotting like that. He was not even walking like that. I did that. With large amounts of help from the ground, but i’ve been the one riding it. Riding through the bad days, the problems, the saddle fit issues, the bucking, the crow hopping, the bolting, the girrafe head, the terrible trot that no one wanted to work through. I was the one willing to do this, and we’ve come so far, and I’m done with letting bad moments make a ride a bad ride.
I got frustrated during the ride yesterday, but I didn’t let it show. I’m bad about letting my feelings out towards my horse, and I vowed to stop doing that, so I was relaxed the whole time and just pushed him through, and in the last 5 minutes, he was moving like that ^^^ and that trot is the best trot I have EVER seen this horse do. Not perfect, but heck, it’s looking good. (I was in the middle of posting, hence the weird butt position. I actually don’t ride with my butt slightly in the air.)
And when I saw the videos, I thought, man, this horse can do this. He’s getting it. And I just have to keep working through things and working towards consistency and he will rock it.
He’s a difficult horse. He’s not an easy ride, he’s very much a hard ride. But I can ride it out and make him and myself a better team.