Back in the dark days just before 2017 ended and we welcomed 2018 with wide open arms, I rode with TrainerM. It was not quite a lesson, not quite a clinic, not quite anything at all—I feel like I’ve entered a strange, ephemeral phase of my relationship with my trainers; that feeling probably deserves an entire blog post, so we’ll save that for another day—but anyways, I was on a horse and TrainerM said some words at me and the whole thing went okay, I guess, but I also left the entire experience feeling generally incompetent and ashamed of where my riding was at.
Then I went home and a couple days later I jumped my pony and it was fantastic, so.
I haven’t jumped a lot of horses, but as I drove home from the barn that day, I started to think of the handful of horses I’ve had the honor of riding over (very tiny) fences. I thought about how each one made me feel, about their strengths and weaknesses and the things I liked about the them and the things I didn’t like.
So the other day, during my lesson/clinic that wasn’t a lesson/clinic, I climbed aboard a horse that wasn’t mine in a saddle that wasn’t mine and had one of my most disappointing rides ever. The horse I was on didn’t feel like he had a very big motor, but I couldn’t figure out how to get more horsepower from him and TrainerM kept chastising me for fussing too much. Then I ate dirt coming up to the cross rail when he suddenly bolted sideways out from under me. It was an easy fall and I didn’t feel mentally jarred at all (yay, go me!), but even when we did get over the cross rail I just… didn’t like it.
Everyone always says that riding different horses makes you a better rider, but here’s a secret: I don’t think I want to be a better rider. I hate riding horses that aren’t my horse. I like that he’s big, and smooth, and smart, and that his green bean nature means that sometimes I have to dig in and help him out. The tiny moments where he scares me are far outweighed by the times where he makes me feel so, so strong.
So I guess this whole blog post was just a long-winded way of saying that I like my horse. Go figure. 😅
I haven’t been the best blogger the past few weeks. Things are moving so quickly that it feels like the moment I think of a post to write, I’m already three days too late. It’s part of the joy of having a green horse; sometimes progress happens so fast its hard to keep track of all of the little things. 😅
We’ve made some tack changes that I wanted to make sure I put down on here! I started to think about my tack right before my last lesson, when I had a series of not so great rides where Raglan was being a fussy baby about contact. I got a little advice from TrainerA, and then the experimentation began!
First thing I did was switch up the bit that we were using. I had been putzing around in a simple single jointed loose ring snaffle, but when he started acting up I messaged SellerH to find out what he went in before I bought him. She suggested I get a double jointed bit, so off to the Bony Pony I went! I tried two French link bits, a loose ring and an eggbutt. At first I didn’t love the fixed sides of the eggbutt (I felt like it made the reaction time of the bit much slower, like I was talking to him with a layer of cotton around my hands), but in the end I decided it was a better fit for us. I felt like the eggbutt was more forgiving of my not-always-awesome hands, and that he was more willing to stay with it than the loose ring.
TrainerA also recommended I add a flash to Raglan’s noseband to prevent him from opening his mouth to avoid the contact while he’s being educated on the virtues of the horse-rider-handshake. This is something I had to do for Ezhno when he was first learning about contact, too. I don’t happen to own a flash, but I do have a figure 8, so I went ahead and added that to the mix after I was done playing with different bits.
The last addition to the mix is more for me than him: a running martingale. There have been a couple of moments during some of his I-don’t-want-to-go-forward tantrums where he’s gotten a little too close to my face. As a rider, I feel eight times more confident when I’ve got a martingale in my corner and I know the horse I’m riding can’t crack me in the nose. Plus it’s nice to have a little extra leverage for those moments where his head gets super high and he gets super strong. It’s made me feel a lot more comfortable!
I’m still fussing with the fit of the martingale, but I’m happy with the changes for the time being! There will come a time when I can switch back to a regular noseband and no martingale, but for now our gear has me feeling very confident with the level of control I have over my unorthodoxly giant steed.