It’s always interesting when you train young horses because they seem to change every day. Sometimes it’s hard to stop seeing them as a ‘baby’ and realize they’re turning into a grown up horse. It’s a very fine balance when to push and when to back off.
Happy has always been an interesting guy. He was very anxious when I got him. Just going to get on would send him into a jaw grinding anxiety attack and he refused to stand still for me to get on him. Once I did get on…he would power walk as fast as he could and would never quite relax throughout our entire ride.
So for about 2 months I simply hacked him out. No pressure. When I did try to do some arena work…after about 10 minutes the teeth grinding would start up and I’d have to get off. Pushing him through his work anxiety was not what I wanted.
Finally after weeks of simply hacking and short periods of arena work…I starting seeing him relax under saddle and on the ground. When we did do arena work, I wouldn’t mess with him at all except for steering…not to mention he loved his squishy black rubber D ring snaffle.
So FF to present day.
Happy is 6 this year and he’s starting to look more like his Irish-Draught Grandsire than the more refined Dutch Warmblood x TB. He is so much bigger and has more self carriage strength than he ever has. But of course, this creates a problem for me. I’ve got quite a small build, so picture Happy in his glory with 115 pound Carrie with a rubber D ring.
Pretty sure Happy doesn’t even know I’m up there most days.
So long story short…I decided to switch him to big brother Rusty’s dressage bridle and bit which is a regular nose band + flash and a double jointed metal loose ring snaffle.
Let me tell you…Happy was a different horse. I’m not saying it was perfect, but for the first time in a long time I had just enough leverage to get my point across without him ignoring me. We had a solid 20 minutes of fantastic walk/trot work before I called it a day.
I think Happy is finally growing up and has crossed over from baby territory to becoming a grown up. And that, my friends, is when the magic starts to happen.