Rode the 3 horses today.
Rating them for fun/enjoyable ride:
Bandit - 3 - Too many issues, mainly physical.
Nickel - 8 - Great ride.
Hero - 7 - Not quite as great "all around" as Nickel, but some antics got me laughing so he gained marks for individual style.
First up: Bandit
Brought him out, put his big western saddle on. As with every horse I thought english would be better, but that's not what anyone, ever has ridden him in and I'm doing an eval/exercise for his owner so it's not about me.
The barn owner was around, she had done a lot of training on him. I said his owner was having some issues, her opinion was he just needed more frequent riding. Probably correct. She helped me understand that his browband was not actually a snug fit, it was meant to be a one-ear headstall. Ha ha! Poor horse, I had him squished in there.
Walked Bandit into the arena, his head went up almost higher than he could put it and eyes looked startled. I wasn't quite sure about that since he has two blue eyes, which throws me off. I led him around a minute and he snorted loudly at the golf cart going around outside, which told me I was reading his eyes correctly.
Despite his anxiety, he did not zoom or jump anywhere, so I got on. The saddle was comfy, and he was going in an S-hack. Later I heard he had not been ridden much in a hackamore, but he neck reined well most of the time. I rode two handed for backup in case he shot off somewhere. He felt very slightly off, and I'd noticed his hooves were needing a trim and also had icky frogs full of thrush. Still, he jogged around at what he probably considered a good pace but then he started roaring a bit. It was fairly quiet so I wasn't sure at first, but he definitely has some kind of airway issue.
I could feel he was well trained and probably just needed more exercise. He picked up the lead I asked at the lope, very smoothly, but after a few strides tripped on the slightly off foot so I stopped him. Took him outside to the grassy outdoor ring, and he felt less anxious out there, but also wanted to go back to the other horses. When he turned a direction I didn't ask, I turned him back, and felt him building up some angst. I waited for something to happen, being quite used to Hero nowadays. He moved a hoof sideways and gave his head a shake. That was it? Yep. So I had him jog around a bit more.
Bandit moved better after warming up so I was less concerned, but he was sweating and continued to roar some, even at the walk. My thoughts for my friend are that the vet should take a listen to his breathing - I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to work on fitness unless told the roaring was minor enough. With his training and docile personality a little regular work along with a curb which he is more used to would make him quite easy.
I let the barn owner know about his mild lameness and she said that hoof always bothers him when he is due for a trim. She's trying to gradually improve the angles - it's rather clubby. My guess is the thrush gets worse in the crack as the heels get longer too.
First here is a photo from the other day. Some great equitation! Asked for a big trot, then tried to organize it too late. Lurching forward, collapsing through my waist and wrists as my lower leg slides back. Nice. But I ask you, does the horse look happy?
Here we are looking better. Still poor wrists/lost connection to core.
I was lecturing myself heavily about my own riding, which was good. On the video I made of Nickel's rider, she looked much better. Notice how her hands make a straight line to the bit.
Today I had a better time riding Nickel, and realized some things which made me a little less self-critical. One is I realized how long he takes to warm up, and then he is easier. He has a very long back. Also the reins are just bad for my hands, too bulky. I have to hold them oddly, which is why I was bending my wrists. Was able to correct that today when thinking about it. I also thinks it takes a little more core strength for me since he is a bigger horse compared to my size.
Anyway, when I tacked him up his hooves also were thrushy looking. I'm hypervigilant of my own horses' frogs, but it's worse with these shod horses. More trapping of moisture.
But why the 7? Nickel is a versatile boy and I enjoy him a lot. Warmed him up in the indoor, and did some quick transitions. He tried so hard with everything, and was able to do some great ones. I had him gathered up when I asked for the canter, and he collected up so much it felt like we were barely going forward, just leaping up in the air. But super smooth too. Wow.
Then I rode him down the road to our barn, and met up with Nala's rider on Nala. We burned up a couple hills, super fun and good for Nickel's strengthening. Then did a few big loops around the property trails. Nala's rider was just saying how good she was being when she popped up and down, catching her rider in the face and then flashing both hind hooves at Nickel. We decided Nickel should lead. He just strode out on the trails and took everything at a lovely pace. Great inside, great outside. The only place he has been strong so far is the beach. Understandable.
AND the Hero boy:
He started out very calm and slow. We did some trotting and cantering around the property trails, and blasted up some of the same hills as we did with Nickel. Very fun. We'd ridden both horses back to Nickel's barn, I untacked him, and then Nala went back to our barn for more exercise with Hero.
I had to give him one less point than Nickel because he had times where he walked slowly and needed some incentive to go. Finally he got into it. Then, the funny part was near the end of the trail where he got to "Tantering." That's what I call it. He honestly does have little tantrums. He was breaking into a trot when he felt like it to catch up with Nala. So I started making him wait a few seconds longer, and then trot when I asked instead. The second time I held him back, when I asked him to trot he leaped through the air and after that for about ten minutes spent a lot of time "tantering." That is a canter that is much too round and hoppy and tending to go sideways to be a good, proper canter. Basically jigging at the canter.
Well, I laughed at him and had to smack him one with the crop, but soon he got over it and he is certainly calming quickly nowadays. The tantrums are getting shorter. During the tantering I used the extra lift and energy to make him go laterally and around little bushes in the path. Good exercise.
Back at the barn we let both horses loose at the bottom of the hill and watched them gallop up. Even though they are "free," they don't know what to do at the top since they are thinking about their dinner and the other horses come out to the fences to see what is up. So they always just stop and play squealing games with the other horses.
Ahhh, why do I work...would be nice to just ride multiple horses every day.