It was suggested by as fellow member that perhaps I should keep a progress journal for Caesar to I can look back and see how we got from point A to where ever it is we end up. I brought him home on Monday, October 22. We pulled into the yard at about 5 pm so luckily I still had some daylight to work with. He backed right off the trailer and was handed over to my (non-horsey) fiance to hand graze in the yard while I got the new round bale situated in the pasture and got my filly to settle down. He just dove right into the clover and ignored the goings on like it was all old hat. To establish a baseline, my trainer shot a short video of him on the lunge line so we can compare it in a few months once he starts to develop some muscle.
He is a much leaner horse than I am used to seeing. Some of that is him being my first TB, some is him actually being down in weight and the rest, well, the majority in fact, is because the poor guy has no muscle to speak of. He is 6 and has been trail ridden for most of the last 3 years. Watching the previous owner ride him before I got on, I can say for certain that it was with his head up, neck braced and back hollow.
He has already grasped the lunge line communication that I use for the most part. I can get all his gaits fairly lightly, both up and down transitions. We have begun the finer work like steadying him and getting him to slow and lengthen his stride.
On Saturday night, I rode him the first time since bringing him home. Just simple walk and trot to start getting a feel for what he knows and how he moves. Leg means go, end of story. The idea of lateral give is totally foreign. He is used to getting kicked and then the rider grabbing the reins. It took about 10 min to just get a relaxed trot that stayed trotting all the way around the ring. He really wants to be a good boy, he just needs guidance.
Sunday I introduced the side reins, just for about 5 min. He got the idea, but as I stated has no muscle. I was over the moon that he would relax into the reins and try to lift at the walk. At the trot, I got relaxation and called it a day. He was still warm through his back at feeding time so I rubbed him down with liniment and decided to give him a few days to recover before doing work again.
I pulled Caesar out of the pasture and put him the cross ties to groom him and apply some oil to the dock in an effort to grow a tail on him. We started out ok when I was just using the curry to scrub on him and get to his itchies. However, when I decided it was time to start cleaning his hooves, brushing out his tail and untangling his mane, he reminded me that we have not really done some of the more basic respect training. Since his muscles still need a bit of rest, I figured this was a perfect time to just do the simple in hand "this is my space, this is your space" stuff. I would be shocked to learn that this horse has ever been lead from his off side. Some people don't find it all that important, but to me, it is a matter of him acknowledging that I am in control of his body no matter where I am standing.
We started out in the barn aisle just getting him to move his hip and it shoulder away form me when I asked. Hip was easy, his shoulder took some convincing. Then I moved him to the arena where we spent time just walking and stopping. I started turning him away from me by simply walking into his shoulder while holding the end of the lead rope out in front to block that as an exit. Once he was doing that easily and watching my moves, I moved to his off side. The first few minutes were all about getting him to understand that there is something between standing still with me on the off side and immediately trying to go out on a lunge circle. I could try all day to recall and recount exactly what I did, but it was all subtle body language and turning him into the fence when he got rushy. The end result was that we were able to walk the length of the arena, on a loose line, walking, stopping and turning when I asked without trying to run away or ignore me. I call that a HUGE win.
Well, far more time went by since my last chance to work with Caesar than I would have liked, but I think that may have been good for him. We had a great ride today. Much more energy to give me this time than last, I had a lot more horse under my saddle. We did manage to do a better job with my being able to move him over with my leg rather than him rushing forward. We did three firgure 8s at the trot without stopping, he let me post today and we went over trot rails a couple times. With him doing so well, I decided it was time to ask for canter. He disagreed and got in a few good bucks before I went ahead and asked for my whip. That will now be part of his riding gear every time since it worked like a charm. Suddenly, when I sat down, swung my outside leg back and touched with the whip, we had one more little "eh" buck and then we got to business. I just had him cruise around the arena one lap and then brought him down to trot again. After that, I walked him around to cool him out and then we stood in the middle of the ring. I did not get off until he stood still for a count of ten.
Worked Caesar on the side reins tonight. He was a gem for his first time working in the dark under lights. Spent some time just doing transitions and getting him steady and listening. Then I hooked up the reins and started to spiral him out at the walk. This is normally a less than smooth process where I let out line, push him into it till he takes the slack. Tonight, I was finally able to push him out and let the line slide through my hand slowly. At the trot, I asked him to soften and steady. When he would go into the bridle and lift his back, I could hear a different quality to his hoof beats. It was really neat!
My trainer/farrier came this morning. Caesar got a trim and I got a lesson in lunging for more effect with such a light horse. Having spent all my time up till now on QHs, it has been quite an experience learning how much more a sport horse has to offer. With guidance, I was able to get him to extend his stride at the trot just on the lunge. He softens very nicely into the side reins at the walk and knows what I am asking for at the trot, but still has a bit to go before his muscles are equal to the task. I am enjoying this horse so much.
The trim revealed several old abscess holes and a few bruise stains. It also revealed that there is a decent foot under all the cracks, chips, flares and overgrowth. I found myself wondering if he has been trimmed in a year...
A few calories and someone has started to show his butt! After my last ride, I knew he had an issue with going into the canter. I had no illusions that one ride was going to fix that, but I was not prepared for today's escalation of the issue. I decided it was time to start making my whip as much a part of his uniform as his bit. From the outset of the ride, every time I moved the whip from one hand to the other, his ears would follow it and he would drift a bit away from it. I spent time just getting him to relax about it at the walk before asking for trot. At the trot, if the whip swung out into his field of view, he would kick out at it! Figures and serpentines and just cruising the rail and he finally stopped that and just relaxed again.
Now, if I was smart, at this point I would have realized that the best use of this ride would be just to deal with the whip issue, do some walk and trot and maybe begin asking him to bend with my legs. However, I think I felt like I had something to prove because of the last ride. I was a bit scared to ask for canter, so I think in that horsewoman mindset that takes over sometimes, that meant I HAD to ask for it. Not my best move. I ended up in front of my saddle hugging his neck at one point!. I did get a few strides of canter, but the cost may still prove rather high since afterwards all I did was walk and it took me three times as long to get him settled about the whip as it had before.
I need to remember to ride him more like a greenie. Instead of pushing the envelope every time he does well, I need to take my little wins for the big victories they are.
Had a lesson with my trainer today on Caesar. We covered a lot of ground. Caesar went into a very lovely frame on the side reins. We got him really working through from behind and soft to the bit. Then I rode him with her watching. He wanted to be a snot. It turns out, he is barn sour. At least I know what the issue is and from there I can work out ways to fix it. I had a bit of a heart attack when Caesar decided the best way to get out of the trot and back to the barn was a half rear and roll back. I stayed on!!!! Very proud of that LOL. He needs to grow out more mane so I have something to grab onto when he pulls those stunts.
Over all, I am very happy with how it went today. I think he just needs to be ridden more forward and me stop worrying so much about what he might do and that will help. It will take time and patience, but we have our homework. :)
I really wish I had more time to work with Caesar, but he still seems to be progressing well. My trainer came over today and coached me through some ground work. Then she got on him and just cruised him around a bit. He finally bucked for her lol but in general he relaxed more than the last ride and just went. Then I got on him and she spent a few min telling me to take deep breaths and relax. I got him to do a couple figure eights at the trot. We went over the trot poles a couple times.
Since I was relaxed and he was relaxed, I called that a ride and did some work in the side reins. I got him working really nicely into the bridle lifting his back and he shoulders. I got him just to the point that he didn't want to anymore because he was getting tired, got him to give me just one extra stride and then called in a day.
Life has been interfering with my riding time and my mind has not been in the right place to work much, but I did ride Caesar two days in a row. All we did was walking, meandering around the ring, bending, playing with leg. Overall I was very pleased with the rides from the standpoint of they were drama free. We had sticky steps, but I put my leg on and he moved again.
He is a little bit sore as we are dealing with some trush as well as an infection in his frog from the cleft being impacted is the best word I can come up with. My farrier cleaned it out, but we have to spray it with diluted bleach twice a day to get it to dry out.
His general handling is improving. Bridling is no longer a game of push me pull you. He stands still for it until we get to the bit, then he clamps his jaw and picks his head up but as long as I stay with him, he gives up pretty quick.