Friday, March 14, 2008
So...the serious training begins.
Several months ago, Boomer arrived at his new home and settled in quite readily. For some his arrival provoked awe...others tip-toed around him, probably fearing his enormous head might offset them in one swing. Having a 17.1hh Percheron cross move into a barn largely occupied by athletic hunter/jumper thoroughbreds and little school ponies made subtlety impossible to say the least, but within no time, he became a popular face. Since then he and I have taken everything in stride. I've been hesitant to push him too much due to his young age, his shift to a new home, and of course the need to establish a good relationship. However, I have since learned Boomer has other ideas in mind.
Without a steady and creative agenda to keep him occupied, Boomer has started getting bored and increasingly naughty. He began finding anything to get into and decided to start testing his boundary lines every chance he got. I picked up on some Clinton Anderson natural horsemanship training to do some fun groundwork with him - basic yielding, desensitizing and lungeing exercises. He responded enthusiastically, but still the infrequent riding kept his energy levels too high. My coach finally hinted that it was time to start into some more regular training with him and get him fit. The extra riding time I've been putting in even in the past week has made a world of difference. I'm getting the feeling that Boomer is definitely the type of horse that needs regular work, and when he gets it, he is much more content and relaxed on a daily basis. We are of course only working on walk/trot, forwardness, straightness, sensitivity to aids, and the other very basic beginnings.
Our lesson the other day was fantastic. We started out a bit rocky (I even got a surprising little buck out of him when he disagreed with me), but my coach reaffirmed that it was okay and necessary to be firm with him. I'm beginning to learn the importance of black and white signals, that "go" means "go now" and not when he feels like it. I'm also discovering that one strong correction is better than a bunch of small nagging ones, and even if Boomer says "get lost" at first, he responds well to praise and once he understands what I want - and knows he can't get away with doing whatever he wants - he tries his heart out for me. We've been having a lot of issues with bulging and straightness, so my coach showed me how in pushing him forward, he will automatically straighten and relax into the bit. I have to bump him with my inside leg to keep him from leaning in on me around the corners where he has trouble balancing his huge body, but I also have to keep firm support on the outside so I don't over-correct him. By the end of the lesson, Boomer felt better than ever and he even gave me a gorgeous frame without being asked. My coach says he's going to be wonderful for that, and also that he's a very good boy, he just has to learn his boundaries and get used to balancing his body. Whenever things fall apart at the trot, we just repeat the exercise at the walk and go from there, which really helps with organization and multi-tasking. It seems sometimes like there's so many aids to think of at once! We were both pooped by the end of the lesson. That's the great thing about my coach though, because I know when Boomer and I work with her, that's when we both really give our best. We finished off with lots of hugs and kisses. Boomer's a total attention hog and will take anything you give him.
Our new Schleese saddle is working out really well too. Although custom-made is expensive, I suppose that's one of the downsides to owning a hard-to-fit horse. I'm confident it was a good investment because it fits us both really well and I've noticed a big difference in his performance from the Wintec to the Schleese. With the Schleese, he's got a lot more forward action and freedom in his shoulders, and my own riding position has greatly improved.