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Wizard Ride 33: It Gets Ugly Before It Gets Pretty

January 4, 2009

Wizard

Sunday, 1/4/09

After work, I headed to the barn. I watched my friend Christie work with Mary the Morgan. They have made SO MUCH progress and it’s such a thrill to see them learn about each other.

After their ride, I tacked Wizard up and hand walked him for about 10 minutes as a warmup. I try my best to change the routine to keep things fresh. I keep some parts the same to teach consistency but I change some so that Wizard does not think that he MUST longe before riding or that he is entitled to a clicker session after a ride.

Then my friend Sarah got to the barn and she rode Wizard for about 15 minutes. Sarah is an accomplished hunter/jumper rider. I’ve known her since she was a little girl and she has become an admirable horsewoman. She has worked with some of the top trainers in my part of New Jersey and she has ridden all kinds of horses, from imported warmbloods to the most modest backyard grade horses.

Sarah has a lot of experience with Thoroughbreds- she also has one of her own. As soon as she started walking, she was already riding with a beautifully loose rein and Wizard appreciated it. She sat quietly, working with him as he got himself comfortable. When he bounced into a jog, she settled him back to walk and gave a pat and a big release with the reins. Release is so key with green horses, especially Thoroughbreds. Within one or two circles, he was walking calmly with a low, relaxed frame. Sarah took up contact for a few steps, then released, over and over.

Than she asked for a trot. It was a really excellent learning experience for me because I got to see all of Wizard’s quirks from the ground instead of from in the saddle. I saw how he chomps when he’s nervous, I saw how short his neck gets when he evades the bit and gets behind it. I saw how much of a range there is from his fast trot to his slow trot. And I also got to see how to ride through it. Sarah’s reins were VERY light on his mouth and she did everything she could to encourage him to stretch down and carry himself. It gets awfully heavy carrying a horse’s head in your hands ;^) Wizard needs to learn to relax and carry himself before he can accept contact.

I also learned that a lot of the fussing he’s doing with his neck and head is just him trying to get comfortable. He is not trying to run away or misbehave, he is just trying to figure out what to do. I know that he’s a good horse, but there is a tiny shred of self-preservation in me that wonders if he’ll take off bucking if I give him so much rein.

Wizard was far more balanced to the left than to the right. Alibar was a little sided, but not nearly as sided as a lot of horses. The good news is that I’m a lefty and I actually ride better to the right. So maybe Wizard and I will even each other out.

To the right, Wizard did rush a little bit. But he never broke into a canter, he just sped up his trot. Sarah simply rebalanced and he rebalanced. She also asked for a walk before he’d get too confused.

By the end of her little ride, she had him trotting on a loose rein, stretching downward in both directions. Hooray!

Then I hopped on and walked him out for about 10 minutes. He was back to his wonderful Wizard walk, the one I worked on so diligently for all these rides. Sarah told me that each new training experience will probably be awkward like this in the beginning. It will be ugly before it gets pretty, especially when we are first teaching him to balance himself.

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