this is us

Throw back to some snapshots from Summer. I’m having a hard time quantifying our progress this year, maybe partly due to not going to a horse show and falling off, like I usually do as a report card.

Probably our biggest thing is that we haven’t used a bit since March–and wouldn’t you know, he puts his head in the bridle now. He was mostly alright to bridle before–oddly better at taking the bit for the people who always rode with one. I often rode him in just a halter, and he was pretty consistently refusing (at first) to take the bit for me. I guess he was trying to tell me something, and figured might actually listen. And it did work, he has a bitless bridle now, and he really doesn’t abuse it. He’s a lot happier. Granted, I also haven’t asked him to do dressage in it. Not really.

He’s also surprisingly good in a neck rein. Trot is still iffy, but walk is getting impressive.

Bees in the grass put a damper on our jumping practice. I was hoping to get back to jumping practice, but every time we entered the grassy area with jumps we’d come out with a persistent yellow jacket on our tail. Not cool. But he’s pretty happy most of the time, and downright cuddly, and very, very good with children under foot.

groundwork for littles

I’ve started teaching the seven year old how to work Midas in hand. It was time. We’ve practiced leading before, and it’s always been a bit of a struggle for her to not run ahead, or perpetually circle left because she wasn’t comfortable with how close he is when you lead properly.

He’s docile as a lamb in hand, and dutifully follows her no matter how hard she tries to get away. She has, however, made great strides. Becoming accustomed to being close to such a large animal, and learning how to maintain her space.

I started teaching her more complicated things, like yield the haunches, just last week. Groundwork is how I became a  better rider and gained Midas’s respect under saddle, why should it be any different for the child half my size?

It’s already made a difference in her and we’ve practiced twice. She is much better at leading all of a sudden, much more confident handling him on the ground by herself. I immediately started giving her more to do–like buckling the girth, snapping on and off the reins. I let her take his halter off, too. That was rather entertaining. Midas would rather watch a little kid jumping for his head repeatedly than put it lower (not that he made any move to lift it out of reach because something was jumping at his head.)

My hope, is that it will translate to him paying more attention to her when she rides, and also her having even more calm and control.

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throwback

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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This horse

Today was our second proper foray into bareback and bridle-less. The first time was quite spontaneous, and went pretty well. We walked in a circle, then I tried trotting him up the long side and laughed at how very quickly steering fell apart. Then I fetched the reins and had a slightly more proper ride (in the halter and bareback pad).

This time was only slightly less spontaneous, but we’ve spent weeks working on our leg aids and not tuning out when I let go of the reins at walk or trot. We walked, did figures, walked poles, walked into the grass and out of it again, stopped, did turns, even backed! And then I quit because he was starting to feel proud of himself, and that’s a good place to quit. Quit while that “hey, this is the easiest work ever for oodles of pats and scratches!” glow is high!

Then we took a walk in hand and I watched him eat grass for a half hour as a reward. This was a good day for everyone!

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Liberty video

This post was supposed to go up in November. I’m not sure what happened!

I really need to make a new video documenting Midas’ and my continued skill development at liberty. I imagine it would show improvement “come” in particular. I haven’t been able to think of how to teach him to go to x spot and stay there, and I’ve been debating about trying things like rearing or laying down–not sure I want those tricks in his arsenal! But it could be cool.

You can watch a video of us here, I made it last November with the help of my mom. It’s been hard to get something like that in since I’ve been traveling a lot or bringing my friend’s little girls to ride him.

It’s good for him to be socialized with the tiny humans, he’s definitely fond of their visits. And, I gotta say, having a horse trained such that I can control him from across the ring makes me feel a lot better about putting a tiny 6 year old on a 16hh Midas. He’s been nothing but a gentleman to her, which is so fun to watch.

I digress.

We got started on this journey because, well, who wouldn’t want to walk a horse without a rope? Also, it was the only thing I could think of to do to teach the freight train horse to stop without pulling on him. I went to a Tommy Turvey clinic, showed my trainer how far Midas and I had gotten on our own, she told me to buy Clinton Anderson’s Down Under Horsemanship, and away we went.

I really found the  book Down Under Horsemanship easy to use and understand–though when I have looked up Anderson’s training videos I wasn’t wild about the way he uses his own methods.

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