Most riders will agree that this sport is a rollercoaster of a journey. There are huge highs when it feels like everything you have been working on comes together and then the massive lows where it feels like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. The “problem” with our sport is that we’re working with living animals and while people do often underestimate their intelligence, they unarguably have moods and instincts that can interfere with what we may ask of them.

Over the last week, Jack has been a real battle to ride. He has an awful habbit of leaping forwards and running for a few strides when he either has too much energy, when he’s put into an unfamiliar setting and is nervous or when he’s just being downright argumentative.

These episodes can be rather drammatic as he’s a very quick and flexible horse. He also despises his mouth being messed with so pulling him up in an effective but none confrontational way can be challenging. For this reason, he has always been trained to slow and stop with a thigh aid as opposed to any kind of rein aid.

Today, he was being challenging to say the least. No sooner had I gotten onboard than he was pretending to spook at monsters in the corner of the arena, although in his defense it was terribly windy today and although we were indoors, the wind was making rather crazy noises and rattling the doors.

Warming up was a battle, he was evading any contact on his mouth initially, hollowing, dropping behind the leg and threatening with bunny hops whenever my leg was applied. I spent quite a lot of time in walk with him today, trying to get him to stretch and just relax a little which worked well but never the less, as soon as we moved into trot he tensed up.

He had a couple of “spook and run episodes” and contrary to my normal reaction, I was pulling him up quite strong today. Ive had a very rude awakening recently about a fault with my outside hand and being the horse he is, Jack will exploit any weaknesses he finds. This was leading to problems on circles where he would duck and run out of his outside shoulder.

I spent a good 20 minutes in trot today, checking my outside hand constantly, being quite firm with him through my leg and really focussing on trying to get him to just relax and stretch down a little bit. He finally started to do this but after a disturbance outside upset him, he was tensing yet again. In a final effort to make him listen to me, I picked him up much more than I usually would without first doing a lot of long and low work (note long and low, not low and curled in!) Luckily for me, after some initial arguments and attempts to evade my outside hand yet again, he settled down, admitted defeat and produced some super work with a really nice relaxed frame and, whats more, some correct circles without a hint of losing him through his outside shoulder.

I was so pleased with him, to the point of being quite emotional as we really do seem to have had an argumentative time recently (most of which was my fault for a) not working him enough over Christmas and b) being a tad too soft on him when he was trying to avoid work) and for the first time in quite a while, I was actually pleased with my own riding.

Once again, Im reminded of how much this horse has taught me. Everything I know is challenged on an almost day to day basis and unless Im riding correctly, his work is poor; he is very unforgiving but at the same time, this is exactly what Ive always wanted – a teacher that will really pull to pieces every fault I have.

He’s due one day off over the weekend although that is somewhat weather dependent (it’s been too windy for the horse walker to have been used this week so Im trying to make up for the lack of this also). I do however feel that we crossed a major hurdle today; one where I actually told him in quite clear terms that he couldn’t always get away with what he wanted and I wouldn’t always give into him. Usually after such sessions, our work is back on track for quite some time 😀

The recent problem with my outside hand (on the right rein), has resulted in some poor shoulder in work which Im also hoping to focus on more now that I seem to be getting more of a grip (no pun intended) on that rather significant problem!