One of the most rewarding times as a breeder and rider, is when I start one of my young horses under saddle. It has been a long time between breakers for me, but my latest baby, Banjo, is proving to be one of the most intelligent and mentally engaged young horses I have ever had. Banjo is a 4yo, and the first, second generation studbook hanoverian i have bred. He is has grand prix dressage on all sides of his pedigree, with his father Don Dancier, a successful GP horse, and his mother, Belcaryn Fame, being by Fishermans Friend, also a GP stallion, out of Aladdin’s Gift, mother of GP horse, UQ Aladdin. He certainly has big shoes to fill!
I started working with him mid last year, and then after my accident, he had an unexpected break. I am always of the belief that if you give them time to work things out and truly understand what is being asked in the beginning, then it sticks with them, regardless of how long they have off. Banjo is testament to this, and after a quick spin on the lunge each way, i stepped back on him and he picked straight up where we left off several months earlier.
Banjo has never really had a paddock mate, mostly because: a. everyone beats the shit out of him, and b. when everyone isn’t beating the shit out of him, they play, and Banjo’s favourite game is to shred everyone’s rugs to pieces. Solitary confinement for him! Imagine his excitement when i arrived home last week with a new paddock mate for him, my beautiful mare, Whinnie. Poor Banjo is in love!
So Banjo has had a bit over a week off, and just earlier today, i went out to ride him. Whinnie started running around, calling out, Banjo wouldn’t stand still and was dancing around while i was tacking up. I quitely thought to myself, oh boy, this is going to be fun. If ever he was going to launch me sky high, today was going to be the day!
Horses really are quite simple creatures. They like routine and learn very well by repetition. As tempting as it was to put him on the lunge, I didn’t want to raise his energy any higher than it already was, so i stuck to our current pattern of mounting, reward when he stands still for me in doing so, and then off we go.
One of my favourite philosophies when training is “control the feet, to control the brain”, and i always have this in mind when working with a tense horse. I stuck to my normal routine of walking, halting, changing direction, and controlling my line, and despite Whinnie running up and down the fence singing out, and the neighbour’s horses getting their hay (Banjo is prone to a bit of the hangry-ness!), his focus was nearly immediately on me.
We spend a lot of time in the walk, working on the suppleness and the relaxation of his topline, then when he settles into an even rhythm and contact, we move into trot and canter. I don’t focus on anything other than the rhythm, relaxation and keeping my line in these paces, and when he sorts his body and balance out, he is already looking for the roundness and connection, through his improved posture.
It would be very easy for me to force him into a frame at this stage, but I often joke with people i teach that xenophon worked out 1500 years ago that anything forced, or done out of compulsion, is never truly undestood, so i will stick to my guns and let it all happen as a natural progression of his training. 🙂
I absolutely adore working with Banjo, and am very excited about what the future holds for him. I am planning our first little outing to the Lockyer Equestrian Group Twilight Hack Show on the 22nd Feb, just to have a cruise around a dressage test. This will be a perfect first event for him, as the dressage is not done to a time draw, and you can show up and ride pretty much when you and your horse are ready to go. I can take as long as we need to settle him, and hopefully make sure his first outing is a positive and stress free experience for him.
I am looking forward to reporting back on that one!
Happy riding….. 🙂