Longer time readers will know that Tristan has had something of an evolution on being ridden outside in the last few year. As a younger horse, he was about as dependable as it gets. You could hack him anywhere bareback in a halter. That was his pattern for the first few years at our current barn, too.
Four or so years ago, he started becoming significantly less fun to ride outside: bratty on trail rides (always trying to turn home, and I mean ALWAYS), totally unreliable in the field (at any second he could go from chill to bolting), and frustrating as hell in the outdoor (got super strong and then bolted/bucked, especially in the end away from the barn).
The jury is out how much of it is attitude and how much physical. Probably both! It could be that he was getting a bit stiff/sore and that became behavioral. It could be that he just decided he was done, because this behavior would happen on short, totally flat road hacks, too..
This year, I’ve taken a careful and measured approach to re-introducing outside work, and generally so far so good.
That is not to say he’s been perfect; he’s had one or two snit fits, but they’ve been contained quickly, and the vast bulk of his work has been good and willing. I don’t need foot-perfect! I need generally cooperative.
We’ve even had a few lessons in the outdoor rings, both the upper dressage ring and the lower jump ring. The night before the dressage ring lesson, I took him up just to see how he’d be; I put in his figure-8 bridle with the kimberwicke and my intent was to take him as far as he was polite. He ended up giving me 15 minutes of very chill walk-trot-canter in both directions, even in drizzly rain with thunder in the distance. And then on the walk home, within sight of the barn, 100′ away, he jettisoned every single one of his marbles and went up and sideways hard and I stuck it out through sheer determination. I still have no clear idea what was up with that.
He was good for his lesson the next day, though, and last Friday was quite good for a fun lesson in the jump ring that incorporated lots of pole work. He even got quite strong and eager (he still loves pole work, he keeps hoping we will make them into jumps someday) but was still rideable. Toward the end, when he got a bit tired, we had one canter that was…not exactly in control, but it wasn’t out of control. You know those canters sometimes where you’re sitting thinking “this is actually a great canter, I have no real complaints, but I also have zero idea how to stop it”? Or is that just me? Anyway, one of those.
Most of his naughtiness has been on the longe line, where it often is, hence this rather spectacular effort from last week, what was supposed to be a 10 minute loose suppling longe after a Theraplate session and, well, he had FEELINGS.
All in all, I have no real complaints! I will still be cautious, because I am not stupid, and I will still use the kimberwicke quite liberally, because he respects the hell out of it, but I hope to have a good outside summer.