I’ve been very lucky, I’ve done more riding than writing, so let us move past elections and dive into more enjoyable subjects and that is riding!
Living in So Florida has a lot going for it and right now that big perk is the weather. We’ve been in the upper 70’s with mild humidity and I’ve taken full advantage of this break in temperatures. I had some goals in mind to work on for the month of November and this blog is about those goals and setting up goals for December.
The Ultimate Goal for Beaux is to be a Rock Star Trail Horse that can go in company or alone, cross bridges and water, spook in place (which he mostly does naturally anyway, gotta love that Standardbred Sanity), and move off of leg/seat/neck rein cues. I am incorporating a lot of dressage to get Beaux moving off of leg and seat cues, getting his smooth saddle gaits consistent, and get him lighter on his aides. I don’t have a set time frame at this moment, and while I would love to eventually do Competitive Trails and Limited Distance Rides, I know Beaux needs a lot more polish before tackling “big boy” rides. Our ride season here in Fl is winter/spring and if I can get an Intro ride in by March, I would be thrilled. If we don’t it’s not a loss as we do have almost 100 miles of horse trails in my backyard, so no hurt feelings there.
Beaux has stepped down to a low port mullen Kimberwick from a 3 piece “Wonder Bit”, Beaux had some bad pulling habits coming off the track, we’ve been through over a dozen bits (and bitless) options, Beaux seems much more relaxed and responsive with this bit. I chose the low port mullen mouth as he seems to like tongue relief (which was one reason he liked the 3 piece wonder bit, it collapsed over his tongue) and he doesn’t play with the mullen mouth. The 3 piece bits he chewed and chomped a lot on, so having him quietly take the bit and carry it is a big improvement. We also upgraded to a gently used dressage saddle as sadly, our Wintec AP was outgrown. Beaux put on some nice muscles which means his medium gullet saddle was now too tight. We both really like the new saddle, it fits very well and with my favorite accessory, sheepskin “tush cush”, we can both ride comfortably for hours. So big progress on saddle fit and finally getting a bit that Beaux responds well and is comfortable with.
Once the bit issue got sorted out, next goal is to plant the seed of neck reining into Beaux’s repertoire.This is a “seeds planted but long way to go” goal, basically the light bulb flickers but hasn’t blinded us yet. Beaux learns some things very quickly and others…..well he’s our special snowflake, and this is a skill that he should master in another month or so of consistent riding.
Leg and Seat Cues are a consistent work in progress, Beaux was a driving horse for the first 9 years of his life, and while he has learned to carry and balance with a rider, he has been a little slow to learn leg and seat cues. Beaux still prefers voice commands for upward and downward transitions, but leg and seat cues are inconsistent at best and seem to annoy him at worst. I am trying to find the “sweet spot” to use as little leg pressure as possible yet still get a response.
According to our Endomondo app we’ve tacked on over 45 miles this month and surpassed my goal of 35 miles this month. Beaux has come leaps and bounds trail manner wise from the pushy/rushy/I hate my trail buddies to mostly relaxed trail horse who is keen to go down the trail, can pass and be passed (yay on leap frogging!) has learned that trail buddies are not so bad to have around. I am very proud of him, he has come along way from “Trip over tree roots, pine needles, small twigs, and counting gators in every water puddle we meet” to “I’ll pick up my feet the majority of the time” and Beaux is better with water although it does get the “stink eye” before passing. Mud is no longer a nemesis to be avoided at all costs, and Beaux has crossed multiple bridges with barely twitching an ear. I do give a lot of credit to the Standardbred Sensibilities and spending his first years in the controlled chaos that is the track. Beaux has no problems with traffic, including large vehicles/noisy bikes, and his spooks are few and mostly in place. It is this great brain wrapped up in an athletic body that helped me fall in love with this much underappreciated breed.
I am a hopeless optimist even if the jaded realist in me gets annoyed by that fact, and I am very focused upon our successes. In just the last 3 months of semi-consistent riding, Beaux has come from being a slightly kicky, pushy, cranky, and prone to fire breathing dragon moments to a mostly relaxed horse who can pass and be passed, has stopped seeing his trail buddies as rivals, and is becoming more confident on the trail. December’s goals are a continuation of many of the same themes: 50 miles of trail miles, continuation of neck reining, continue with leg and seat cues, and getting more consistent saddle rack.
Until next time, ride on.