Yesterday Hero went for his longest ride to date (about 7 miles) .
It was about as long as the ride we did several months ago where I had to get off and walk/pony him because he got overfaced and turned into a "baby head." But we've gradually worked up to this distance and we went much faster than that previous ride, so it was the ride with the greatest effort for him.
I came the closest to falling off him yet, just a few yards away from leaving the barn when Max, the barn Lab chased a big coyote out of the bushes and across our path. Nala was in front and startled, but Hero leaped to one side and I literally had to jump for the stirrup that was shooting away from me. But I landed on the saddle. Whew.
It was a great ride. I wanted to gallop, but Hero kept putting his head low at the canter and I didn't want to let him accelerate in that posture. The only horses I know that gallop with low heads are reiners in a controlled arena setting. They are planning short bursts of speed and fast deceleration.
I know this TB does not naturally canter or gallop with his head low in the field, and feel it is due to his bit since I've had him cantering with his head higher. This new Myler, it seems great and has the tongue relief, yes. But I have noticed it seems like it will contact his palate unless he holds his head tucked in a bit, which perhaps is something people are looking for. But I'm wanting to gallop over rough terrain and I want Hero's head up for balance, and sight. Not to mention each stride I knew that he would be able to drop his head lower in a second and kick that hind end up powerfully, and knew I was one heartbeat away from a giant wallop of a buck.
Thankfully, what I felt from my horse was that he finally understood he was working, and that he needed to save some energy. So there was no bucking, just some powerful snorts as we cantered and trotted at a good pace down the beach. We made it to our wooded trail, and I am not sure if Hero had ever been in the woods before. He was quite nervous, and I tested our steering weaving between the tree trunks which suddenly seemed a lot closer together than when I rode on the compact Halla.
But on the way back through the woods, he was much calmer and walked. We had a great ride all the way home.
Today Hero rested since I was able to get permission to put my barn girl on Penny, the big draft cross.
She did great, although she did fall off.
Penny made a sudden turn down a hill and cantered three steps, which unseated barn girl. I'd warned her that Penny was used to doing her own thing, and after her lovely tuck and roll (she said, "I'm sure glad you made me wear a helmet!") we talked about how she hadn't been paying attention and had Penny on a loose rein, which she had not been able to gather up in time to prevent the take off. We practiced some sharp turns to the right and left, so she could get used to managing Penny's speed and direction.
My ride was Pinky, Penny's mother.
The last four or five rides, Pinky's owner has tried to go for a ride but needed to get off and lead her back. She has separation anxiety and it does not help to take her daughter Penny along, she only cares about Sizzler, the gelding in their pasture.
When I pushed Penny away from the barn she crow hopped, and kept trying to put her head up and rush through the bit. The feeling I had was of a green horse that was also not confident. She was bought from an auction (unknowingly pregnant with Penny), and has a brand and unknown history. Very little riding time since then. She was easy to push through her fears and to get unstuck.
Her nerves did not affect Penny, whose little rush down the hill seemed based on a random thought rather than a spook or being upset. We did not go to the beach because I felt Pinky needed more time just going around the fields with a confident rider, and we walked mainly, working on following bit, seat and leg cues. The couple of times we trotted Pinky stiffened and it took a lot to get her to relax.
By the end of the ride, both horses were very relaxed. I talked to barn girl about her confidence after falling and how I didn't want to overface her either, but she seems like a tough kid, minimized her fall and was keen to help with Penny's problems. Next time we'll go out with Hero, since he and Penny have been very calm together. I'll talk to Pinky's owner about maybe riding her out some so she can get more confident.
I can't talk to my journal and keep it brief...
Amore seemed hot and lethargic after standing in the sun while I trimmed her hooves after our ride. So I hosed her off, which made her suddenly spunky. When I turned her back out in the field, she went to roll immediately and Nala came to politely watch over her. Amore stood up, turned and flat out kicked Nala who looked so surprised it was quite funny. Nala's head went up and she trotted off, and Amore followed, swishing her tail in annoyance because it was wet and now sandy too. Poor Nala.