I’ve said many times that managing Tristan’s brain is harder than managing his body. His body is not exactly easy to manage either, but his brain? Well, he had a decade of looking out for himself, four years of wild roaming and then six of nothing but unreliable or neglectful humans. Only this year have we been a team for as long as he was solo.
He’ll never be a ride-every-day horse. That mostly works out for me: I don’t have a ride-every-day life. There’s a lot of gray in between that high-maintenance horse and a pasture puff, though, and I’ve struggled with finding the right balance in the moment. It keeps changing, and a lot of the changes now are directly tied to his 22 years of hard living.
Right now, though? Knock wood, I’ve found a sweet spot. I’m balancing the hard 60 minute fitness rides with the 20 minute dressage intensives with the 30 minute longeing sessions with the 45 minute hacks – and the days off in between. He is really and truly a horse that’s happier and goes better when he’s had time to process and rest.
February was a great month for building on success in all areas, but at the end of last week I longed him and he was just not happy. So we backed off. He got two days in a row off for the first time since early January, and then he got a road hack on Sunday and his brain was already a bit better. I was on a roll with house work on Monday, so he got that off, too.
Tonight, we’ll ease back in with a light longeing session, and then tomorrow back in the saddle for some trot sets & fitness work. I’m working hard to make days off and light days conscious decisions that I make based on the horse in front of me, and it’s paying off in a big way.