I invited two of my friends over for pony rides on Monday. Both were novice riders, and one had never ridden a horse before. Bodhi is very tolerant of bouncing and unbalanced riders and sticks to his slow walk and shuffle trot with the occasional un-cued Spanish walk to illustrate just how *bored* he is.
Bodhi does fine for the "pony ride" style of riding. He follows me around nicely and trots when I trot and halts when I halt. If my guests want any control over their mount though they really have to work for it. Bodhi turns into a little stubborn grump if I try to do the instructor styled ride with the guest on the rail and me sitting in the middle. He swerves and they manage to correct and he just turns again. He refuses to move his feet. He looks drunk and my poor friends look flustered. They both eventually got it and they are now both better riders for it but it is frustrating having my lovely soft willing pony turn into a two year old throwing a tantrum. If I leave the ring entirely that helps but I am worried about Canada and how he will act in lessons up there. He is obviously not dangerous and just throwing a pony-tude but I have a hard time figuring out how to fix it since I am not in the saddle. Any of you folks out there have a lesson program and deal with the middle of the ring sour pony? Any advise?
Yesterday, since Monday was not a fun day, I decided to keep it fun but challenging. I look him into the bigger pasture with all the jumps set up with the plan to just see what Bodhi was made of. First I played all of the old games from my Parelli days. We did the circle game, yo yo game, and the squeeze game through standards, with a tree and a fence line. I then did figure eights over a jump and a log as I have seen on several blogs lately including Stale Cheerios. It was so neat to see how well he responds at liberty to questions he has either never had or has not done in a long time. It was good for us to take our established cues and apply them to different exercises. He was light and energetic. I could control both his direction and his speed during the games at a walk, then trot, then canter.
We moved on to the rest of the pasture where I set up several jump lines of various distances. I asked him to jump them at the trot and then the canter. . It was fun to see the different ways I could ask: running beside him, calling him over from the landing side and sending him over at the take off side. At one point he went in crooked and missed the second jump in the line. Without prompt and with a look of determination on his face he cantered a wide circle around me and set himself up correctly for the line and executed it perfectly. He then dropped to a trot, turned and stopped at my feet.
"Now I deserve a carrot piece"
I think my mouth was hanging open a bit.
He was loving the fences! He seemed to be beaming with confidence and pride over each jump, much better than the clumsy and unsure baby I was not sure even had a talent for jumping. His knees are tucked up and his back is rounding and he looks great. He jumped every single jump in the pasture even the natural jumps we have set up for crosscountry practice like the logs and tire. It was so fun to see my draft pony so liberated.
In between these bouts of gallopy goodness I worked on calm and connected walking at liberty to keep both of us cool in the heat. He would immediately fall in line next to my shoulder and stretch his neck down when I dipped my shoulder. He would cross in front and give laterally at the walk when I swung my hips towards him and crossed my legs walking diagonally. It was nice to have these calm connected moments in between our revved up play. I feel like I need to work more on the little subtle parts of liberty work. We both prefer the exciting stuff but I really need to slow down and make sure he understands all of my cues and body language and does not just leap to conclusions. At the very end I called him up to a stump and rode him back to the gate bridless asking for halts all the way up.
Each day seems to get better leading me to think what will be our next challenge? With all these glowing reports we know it is coming!