One of the unqualified good things about the last few months is that I have committed to a regular lesson time on Fridays, and reached at least some kind of equilibrium with Tristan around that time.
For better or for worse, I have scaled back my non-lesson riding quite a lot. For better, that means he’s spunky and full of energy and actually much more willing to cooperate with the harder work we’re doing in the lessons. I am having to think and work to ride a slightly spooky, slightly naughty horse that needs a light hand. That’s never been my strong suit, and especially not with Tristan!
For worse, it means his fitness has slipped a little bit, which means that for example, last week, when I rode on Thursday night, he came out of the gate on Friday sluggish. It also means that some of that excess energy has bubbled over in not-helpful ways, such as his bucking fit that launched me a few weeks ago.
It’s a tough balance for any horse, but an older horse with a history of uncooperative behavior especially. What level of work does he need to keep him healthy, and what level of work keeps him happy? Those are often two things in tension with each other. It’s sort of the inversion of the problem that can happen with higher-octane older horses, who may need more work mentally than their bodies are able to keep up with physically.
This week, I’m going to try stepping up his riding schedule a tiny bit, and he’s probably going to get a training ride on Wednesday. We’ll see what that results in this Friday!
Anyone else struggle with the brain/body divide with their horse?
5 thoughts on “Brief Lesson Notes”
I have one of those horses who thinks she’s still five years old. Even though she’s gonna be twenty-one in March. Loves her work, but between hard frozen ground without snow cushioning and a muscle issue which got fixed by her bodyworker, we’ve not got much riding in this winter. But old lady still likes whipping out a reining pattern and still wants to run. When we got enough snow that we could canter, she was really into it and on her toes. She lives out 24/7 in a 40 acre field with a herd so she does get a chance to move, fortunately.
i’ve lately transitioned more “schooling rides” to generalized fitness rides. an interval timer in my pocket dings every 2min (not for any particular reason) and i use that as an indicator to change directions or gaits or exercise types or whatever, but otherwise don’t really fuss with what the horse is doing. there are pros and cons haha, but one pro is a happier fitter horse who appreciates the more “hands off” approach ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I feel like it’s a bigger struggle in the winter than summer. The cold weather invites all that sass and there are less opportunities for low stress riding (like hacking out). So your rides are kind of all the same even if you try to make them not. If that makes sense. I’m just counting down the days till spring over here (mine are all a bunch of sassholes!)
It is always interesting to see your thoughts about your rides on Tristian. My older guy is very much the high octane type boy. His body needs a lot of slow hills to stay sound (ish) but his brain absolutely will not slow down into retirement mode.
My usual joke about Tristan is that he’s spent the last few years thinking he was retired! He’s sound as a bell and in great shape but that brain of his…it’s hard when they want to GO but their bodies just aren’t cooperating.