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I started up lessons a couple of months ago after some years of not being involved with horses. I found a local place that does lessons for English.

My instructor is great. Very patient, explains things so succinctly and she's helped me get my horse legs back very quickly to where I feel confident being in the saddle doing things again.

I'll probably be documenting my lesson experiences here, too, as I really enjoy them and the horses I interact with. From a teddy bear of a Clydesdale named Charlie, to a sweet saddlebred mare named Lakota, to the sassy 9 year old Picasso (a gelding with wry mouth).

With my instructor's help, she's been able to help me find a horse I can work with outside of our lessons that has been worked with intermittently throughout the years. A sweet, but stubborn paint x qh mix, Dandy.

We're still trialing each other out as I've only seen him twice. The first day I met him he was very squirrely, very forward but overall listened very well... Until bridling.

We (the owner and I) probably spent about an hour trying to get a bridle on him. He would lift his head to where you couldn't reach, and if you grabbed his halter or anything to hold him still, he'd shake his head. When the bit wad in his mouth he'd play with it a lot, but he's also a very mouthy horse (likes to chew on the lead rope sometimes and has been known to chew on halters left too close to the stall door) so he could have been playing with it.

Under saddle he's was very sensitive, very light. We mostly walked and trotted due to the aforementioned work we did before and the fact that he's very much out of shape.

A little stiff on his right side i think it is, so my hope is to work on strengthening that side and doing a lot of stretch work. He's also just stiff in general.

Today was better and worse in some respects when I saw him today.
Definitely recognized me as the damnedable lady who made him work so hard last week.

We got into the arena and began our ground work.

I worked on disengaging his hind quarters, his front quarters, attempted some side passing but he was a little touchy around the girth area and gave me some nibbles /nips. Not outright bites but... More like : I'm tender or that is uncomfortable. My failure to correct this nips me (pun intended) in the butt later on.

He was definitely more mouthy this time than before. Wanted my shirt or my hands or the lead rope in his mouth a lot.

I did a warm up lunge and focused on trying to engage his brain and work on relaxing and taking it easy.

Gave him a stretch in his front legs which he took a bit to figure out what I was asking with lifting his leg in the front. I'll have to figure out how to stretch his back legs.

His neck was a little harder to tuck in for a stretch; a lot of trying to shrug off my hand or moving around. Did get him to settle and relax enough to do both sides.

I had bought a nice used English saddle to try him on and was attempting to see if it would fit him. I'm concerned that it doesn't because even just having it rest on him he was very squirrely and just didn't want to settle. As we were trying to figure out a girth for him as I hadn't gotten one yet, he ends up biting my arm. Similar thing as what happened before, not an outright bite, but like a nibble that ended up hurting a bit.

He got corrected firmly for that. Quick disengagement of his quarters, made to back quite a bit. His owner joked that I scared the poop out of him because he ended up doing so and he normally doesn't in the arena at all.

Determined that we weren't going to use the saddle today because the girths were all to small for his fat belly and that he needs a 56“.

Pulled out the western saddle with a different pad and didn't seem to have any problems with this one like we did the other in terms of slippage, however, he wasn't as sweaty.

Little squiggly at the initial cinching but no problems at the tightening.

And then came the moment of truth...

I purchased a side pull for him because of the problems we got last time. My thought process was that he's either got something going on in his mouth or he's got something else going on from past handling that makes him refuse the bit.

I did initially have problems getting it on but he ended up dropping his head way down which allowed me to get the side pull on with help of the owner (I forgot to undo the chin strap). Got on with minimal issues and let him figure out the sidepull.

He did shake his head a lot- but that ended the more I did a lot of bending and circles with him to get him to flex more.

Dandy is almost a little too smart for his own good because once I stopped bending around the comes and barrels placed, he kept trying to think he could do more to cut corners.

In our transitions, I wanted to keep everything slow and relaxed. Partly because I don't want him to think that every time he gets brought out he's going to get worked to death. And also so he doesn't get the idea that if he just goes super fast, he can get out of work sooner.

It was very much a different feeling than the first ride. He felt relaxed, responsive and even almost a little lazy. Did have to coax him to move up in transition a bit more but I think I would rather that than have him be so wired that the slightest pressure pushes him into a canter. But, I could also be very wrong in that mindset.

Post ride I walked him on foot around the arena. He was very impatient in trying to get the bridle off so until he stopped trying to push into me to get it off, we just walked. Stretched his neck and legs again at the end of the walk then headed to the arena opening to remove the tack.

Made him wait to take off the side pull every time he raised his head when I'd go to grab the headstall. He would have to lower his head and keep it there before I would remove it.

There was a quick hosing after and he got some grass and treats for a job well done.

His owner, her daughter and husband were all very pleased with how responsive he was with him going bitless. I wouldn't trust him yet on a trail ride without one as of right now but once I get one that fits a little better, that might help with some of the signals I muddied up.

I'm potentially going to come out again on Sunday if it isn't storming.
 
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