The Adventures of Hercules
I had another journal, but it appears I have lost it, and so with a bit more time on my hands and with a new outlook on the future, I'm starting a new one. I really need to get Hercule fit as myself and my boyfriend are moving to a station in Hastings, as he's got a job there. Very exciting for us and it means we will be living together after a year of long distance. I get to take Hercule with me so that means lots of riding on the farm! And my boyfriend (who's a better rider then me, aren't I lucky) will likely be using him for mustering.
I currently have two horses: a 20+ year old Clydesdale/Thoroughbred mutt, a very handsome fellow who stands at about 16.3 and is aptly named Hercules, as well as a standardbred lease mare, Daisy, who is about 14.3 and will be returned to her owners soon. I really hope i've done her justice.
For those wanting a bit of background on myself and my horses; I am a 18 year old who lives in New Zealand. I've been horse mad all my life, but really only started riding (apart from a few horse camps) at 13, doing an hour lesson once a fortnight. Looking back now, where I use to ride was pretty useless and really just taught things that we found fun rather then things I needed to know. I thought I was pretty much the bees knees because I was jumping higher then most of the other students on bombproof, slow ponies. When my family moved to a lifestyle section about 20 kms from town, I was allowed a horse. I should've bought a been there done that horse, but instead I bought Hercules.
Hercules was previously a 1.20m showjumper and so is pretty much a schoolmaster when it comes to jumping, but he's also a fairly hot ride who they were selling suspiciously cheap for a '14 year old' horse who I found pretty straight forwards when I rode him. Previous to me, he was sold from a place where he was ridden very frequently and jumped extensively, to a nervous beginner rider. He became difficult to catch, was ridden in a poorly fitted saddle so combined with that and a very reduced workload, he quickly took advantage. This is a big horse, and allowed to get away with things, he picked up a habit of bucking during the canter. I did not know this.
For the first month or so my family couldn't afford a saddle so I rode bareback. I hadn't really ridden bareback before and my seat was terrible. Again, he basically got to do what he liked. One day he got particularly carried away at the canter and bolted on me, jumping the electric tape and going into the trees. I basically got clothes-lined by a tree and came off a few seconds later, my face scratched. For the next year it was a misery of bucking, new fitted saddles only to find him still bucking, and hard work because the second he was out of work he was a pig to bring back in. I really did not like him but I knew I wouldn't be able to sell him without lying, and then I wouldn't be able to afford a new horse. He was a big scary horse and I was just thankful he was a gift on the ground- the gentlest guy who was very obliging. It made me hope that he could become that horse under saddle.
Its been over three years now, and what really has made me connect with Hercule is leasing Daisy. This is a five year old very green mare but she has the most willing temperament under saddle- if a little mareish on the ground. I got a lot of confidence from her, which transferred to Hercule. While in the second year we mostly sorted out our issues, I was still afraid of him acting up which in turn made him act up. He's a tad sensitive to such things. In the summer we competed at 90 CM showhunter and won, and he was great, cantering calmly for his lap of victory; completely in his element. I hacked him out not in work over winter successfully, which I had never done before. I worked out a way to just relax even when he was jig-jogging, throwing his head, and realised the less I worried about him being stupid, the less stupid he'd be. If he started to get hot I would just let him canter or let him trot till he came back more calmly. It's very important in his case to make sure you do not keep contact on his mouth if he's getting excited. A half halt is fine, but I have to remember to use my seat and voice and as a very very last resort, my hands.
This year has been very bad riding wise. I have just finished my last year of high school, and the weather has been incredibly wet. It's December now, and I would've thought it'd be nice and dry heading into Summer, but it's still raining every few days. The horses basically had winter off apart from a few rides here and there. Unfortunately, Hercules got more miles then Daisy which I felt bad about, but she is still pretty green and is a bit odd with traffic, and only the road was dry enough to ride. She also has an intense dislike for flat work, so more the reason that she was rarely ridden. Even so, I've given her a great deal of experience. She can be hacked out on the road by herself, she went to a horse camp where she was ridden with 30 other horses, she did games, has been jumped up to 80cm. She's a bit fat at the moment and I'm not happy with her feet (seedy toe) but I really hope they're happy with what I've done with her. I'll be sad to see her go.
Yesterday it was raining so I just rode Hercule in the paddock. I've always been super fixated with getting him to travel without his head in the air. At the walk he travels really softly but lacks power from behind, but definitely doesn't 'llama'. At the canter he's a bit tight and not as soft, but drives really well and comes onto the contact fairly easily and its definitely not a "false" headset. His way of going about at the trot is hideous- head up, short strides. He does this in the paddock too, and the only way to get him to stop this is to push for a really big trot. Under saddle even in a really big trot he can giraffe quite well but will drop his head long and low style for a few moments, or into the contact, but it takes a lot of leg and as soon as he comes back up he's very stiff and on the forehand again. I'm not really big into jumping anymore which is a bit of a bummer since that's the reason I bought him and that's what he's good at, but he's got a decent work ethic and is happy enough with whatever I do with him (unlike daisy).
We had a bit of a breakthrough yesterday. I've noticed the giraffe thing is so annoying because it completely locks up his jaw and poll and makes him so stiff- no bend through his neck or body. So, starting at the walk, I put inside leg on and curved him around my leg with the lightest contact on the inside rein I could, asking him to step in, before swapping to the other side, down the center of the paddock. We basically looked like a squiggly line. When he had got that at the walk, I asked at the trot. As usual, his head shot up in the air and he locked up straight away. I put inside leg on and some hand and he veered dramatically that way, still stiff and not at all bending. I kept asking and eventually he softened, dropping his head down and towards my hand. I then swapped to the other side. It took a lot longer with the trot but he eventually got it. I tried with the canter but I think it's a bit tough to ask him for that as he's a big old boy and although he's extremely agile in the canter, he just kept swapping lead changes. I need to find another exercise to ask for softttt bend and light contact in the canter. I know what I'm saying probably makes no sense but it made sense to me!
Thanks for reading :)