When I first started riding again after several months of not doing so, and months before that, and months before that, I noticed fairly quickly that I gained this wretched habit of pulling on the horse's mouth in attempts to make it go where I want it. Obviously, I know that to be the wrong way so I've began the hard job of focusing on my legs. I'm not really soft (I don't think) in the hands, but I can keep my hands quiet, which is a bonus on me.
So, every time I ride Butterscotch now, I've been doing my best to focus solely on leg pressure. I've even went into the small white arena when it was empty, dropped the reins, and let him venture. He responded about 45% of the time to my legs. I didn't discipline him or fight with him, as it was an experiment mostly against myself. Cue my ideas for picking up English again. I've got a strong feeling that it'll help me regain my muscles, balance, and skills that I used to have.
Rewinding a little. Butterscotch is an intelligent equine, and really does believe himself to be a genius. Why would I think that? The tests he dished out to me when we first started out together. He still tests me, and I like a horse who will remind me to not mentally wander off. The problem for him is, my first and last horse both tested me as a rider, and so I'm quite capable of staying on without panicking. Because of this, he's really mellowed out for me we're both progressing fairly well (in my own opinion).
He's an amazing trail horse, and has stopped his fighting the past couple times. It's really nice to ride a horse like him without having to kick and slap a butt so he'll go forward rather than go home. And, I've also decided to wait on trailing alone on him until I'm sure he's "perfect" (hence quote marks; no such thing as an actual perfect) with other horses first, then we can work on it gradually.
I'm going to ride him on trail ride, hunter/jumper, and a little bit of mild Dressage. Obviously, only when I'm okay with myself as a rider in the latter areas. Why so many things? To keep him mentally stimulated, and so I can know he'll be conditioned when the day comes for me to start practicing long, multi-day trails. I honestly don't plan to show, and if I do, it'll be purely for fun and something to do.
Now I'd like to bring up the "tricks" subject. I've done this more in his pasture without any halter or lead rope, just so I know he's really paying attention. I have been able to go out, walk away from him, turn, and call him over by clicking. He'll even stand there watching me until I call him, which makes me smile. So far, he's pretty decent at following me until something nifty grabs his attention, as he's a really curious 8-year-old. Our main problem on the ground is that he has a thing for trying to walk on top of me when I stop, so I'm trying to teach him to not do that by treating him during "practice." I'll lead him around, letting him walk directly behind me (with me keeping the corner of my eye on him), and I'll randomly stop to see if he's really watching me as a leader. When he stops and doesn't bump into me or walk on me, I treat him. When he does, I make him do a few circles (without a hand on him) and start all over - no treats. He's gotten a bit better, but I need to go out and continue this experiment a little more.
I'm looking for ideas for interesting groundwork activities while I wait to be taught how to start him on a longe/in a round-pen. So far all I've really got is walking over poles in awkward angles so he learns to pick up his feet and not stumble, so when we cross over funky logs, he won't wipe out on me. The other day when I started this with him, he had a tad too much focus on me for crossing the poles. Before it was over, I managed to get him to focus on the poles (most of the time).
Sooo, now I'm sure you're wondering what the point of this thread is. Well, I want opinions. I want ideas, advice, tips, stories, whatever you can throw at me. Like I've said a few times before, when I get an SD card for my camera, I'll be recording my rides for critique. Anyone who's interested in critiquing most/all my recordings, please let me know and I'll link you to my YouTube account when that day arrives.
I love this horse, and I'd like to do right by him. So far I've been complimented on him as being a strong rider with little fear. I haven't fallen off of Butterscotch yet, but I'm sure that I will before our run as partners is over. Maybe he'll even be the horse to break my back, or cripple a leg. Do I care? Hardly. It's the rush of not knowing how your day will go that kinda drags me in. I'm no adrenaline junky, but for some reason I'm in love with every risk horses can give me.
So, back on track; Tips, ideas, advice, questions, stories, answers, whatever you find suitable for me here, I'm happy to read and take your words into consideration and to heart! :)