Blue jay

The blue jay is a bit of a rascal, I will admit. But I have always likes them anyway.

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I stumbled on some old pictures while looking for something else the other day. Oh Midas, memory lane! Before Midas, I rode and trained a cremello gaited large pony, and rode a retired show pony. Midas wasn’t the sole focus until 2013.

2011: Midas loved the Minstrel. Picked him out from afar and decided he was the nicest one of us. But…he still gave the Minstrel a plenty hard time. I wonder if he reminded Midas of whoever started him.

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2012: This was the day I learned to bridge my reins. I’d heard of it before, even been taught what it was, but never before had I really learned to do it. It was also the day he took off with me. Down a hill. Bucking. In front of like forty other riders whose horses did not bolt. I did not fall off. I rode the rest of the ride without incident (though, not without r.i.d.i.n.g. every single step).

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In his defense, this little looker was taking all my training focus.

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2013:

From this picture, it’s hard to tell that this is very same summer Midas dumped the Ham three times the same day. I believe this is the same summer we started doing Clinton Anderson’s book. aug-2828-2

He was a different horse in a halter in the saddle paddock. That’s always a good indicator there is much more going on than there appears.

2014: The year of Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship. Ground work, liberty work, the one-rein stop, cruising, all finally starting to solidify and show real results. We also started jumping with all this new found partnership. Midas and I went to a dressage show. He bolted out of the ring and I jumped off (stopping him in the process) in our first test. In our second, we got a ribbon. Judge commended us for staying in the ring this time. I also start bringing random people to the barn and feeding them to Midas. I mean…teaching them some basic ground work and letting them ride him. As part of his training to be nice to humans, regardless of their skill level. This is a very difficult lesson which we are still working on.

2015:

The spring started with huge promise–we were cantering in the ring in a halter, Midas was happy, I was fairly fit. Midas was loving liberty work, and very good at it. We had a good outing working crowd control…and then I broke my foot (not at the barn) and I was sidelined for the summer. I rode vicariously through the Ham until fall, when I had to re-learn how to ride like a rider and not a hunt seat model. It was a rough set back.

2016: We got back on our feet, caught the groove again. Mostly. We train more seriously with jumping, having finally made jumps no big deal. I get myself dumped a little jumper show, and the Mice start to come riding again. Such a juxtaposition. Jumping 2.6 and crowhopping like a green OTTB off farm, patiently babysitting littles on farm.

2017: I start pursuing riding bridleless with more deliberate steps. Who would have thought THIS picture would ever be possible:

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still riding

There has been quite a lot going on in life, and there haven’t been any big excursions with the horse–but I AM still riding and working with him. In fact, we’re working on canter, and we appear to have gotten over another behavioral hurdle.

It’s unclear how much of the problem was him, and how much was me, but regardless, we conquered it.

There was an occasion, several years ago now, on which he bolted while I was riding bareback in the big field. Without stirrups, I was afraid to do a one rein stop, and I wasn’t 100% sure I could sit out his abrupt stop at the gate. So I decided to jump off.

After that, Midas decided he was terrified of one of the solar generators and water troughs on the way out to that field, and we had several big fights about passing it.  Big fights that ended with us standing its general proximity without bolting, typically. I decided to leave it alone for a while. He walked past it freely when turned out in the big field, or the very pasture the trough watered. Obviously, the trough wasn’t the issue, and we might as well sort out our issues in a setting that involved less spinning.

Also, fighting about it wasn’t getting me anywhere.

So, we worked on other stuff.

Midas is a pretty fantastic ride in the ring, and we’re working cantering in the ring vs cantering in the wild. His bad behavior is location based, so it is now definitely time to start after locations.

Finally, I had an idea. We started with halt in the ring. We would start with halt in the field, too.

So I walked him into the field, and halted him before he could do anything. Head high, he shifted around. Waited. Tried to leave. Waited. Tried to leave. Then caught on. It took MUCH less time than the first time, all those years ago.

I let him eat grass, then asked him to walk forward again. He was immediately wound up. We halted before he could go far, and he couldn’t eat until he was standing quietly. We repeated this until we were well past the trouble spot. He was so distracted by his desire to eat grass, that he didn’t fuss at the trouble spot. In fact, he wasn’t at all interested in walking back to the barn, he wanted to keep doing the exercise so he could eat more grass.

A few weeks later, alternating bareback with saddle work, I tried the field again. This time, we just walked out.

No fight. Not even a hint.

We walked out, did a big circle around the middle of the field, stopped for grass, walked back.

We’ve been out a few times now, I usually take him there to cool out after ring work. And I’m so excited that I can take him into our old trouble field to cool out after ring work. He walks relaxed, happy, alert.

I’ve done a good job not getting spooked that he’s alert and we’re out and about. I think, maybe, we’re building another layer of trust between us.

I feel like we could actually leave and go on a trail ride without having a melt down. Of course, we’d both want to get a good run in.

This picture is from last week, it was a cool morning, I didn’t have time to ride but I was stopping by to pat noses. And the noses energetically brought themselves to me. I used to have to do a poor man’s join up every single time in the fall. What a change.

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