Ah, baby horses. One day you're all "THIS ONE IS THE SECOND COMING OF CORTES C" and the next day you're like "GLUE FACTORY FOR YOU."
I'm not actually upset with Mo at all (and if I was, Tracy or Aimee or someone would just come get him, ha). He was just being a normal green horse in our jump school on Friday--his final school before his first show. I am entirely without media evidence, so enjoy review pics of his cutie pie self.
In his previous school, the questions got a lot harder, and he did more than he had ever done. So it would make sense to me that he'd be a little nervous about what we might throw at him in this lesson. He warmed up great--really relaxed and soft in the bridle. Our jump warmup involved trotting a crossrail, halting in a straight line, and then executing a turn on the forehand before heading back to the jump and doing the same thing.
M: You're going to say he doesn't know turn on the forehand.
Me: No I'm not. I know you know he doesn't know how to do turn on the forehand.
M: No time like the present!
The first one we did off the left leg, because he tends to be more accepting of my left leg in general. He did a pretty good job for his first try! He got some nice crossover steps and then a pretty good transition into the trot. Lots of pats for that effort.
M: The first time I asked [young horse] to do that, he reared straight up.
Mo never felt like he was going to rear--he CAN rear (stay tuned), but he's a bit more likely to root down on you instead. It's annoying, but it's safer for all the "I won't ride rearing horses people." (I'm a weirdo--I'll ride a horse who rears, as long as he doesn't flip, which some of them do and some of them don't. And you can kinda tell.) The second time I asked him off my right leg, and he was like, "eff you, lady," so I giggled at him, got one good step, and trotted back over the x. He did a pretty good job, and there's our flat ride homework for the week. I've taught a great many green horses to do a turn on the forehand against the fence--one horse I rode last year was only to do direction-changes via a turn on the forehand--so I'm sure Mo and I can get this down just fine.
The next step was to trot a fence coming off the rail on a short diagonal, and then (trotting or cantering) loop around trot a second fence off the rail on a short diagonal the other way--so you'd leave the rail at B, basically, and whichever direction you were going you'd see a vertical. This was meant to be a pretty straightforward effort for him, but he was clearly a bit worried about it, so we just did it over and over again until he found it easy. The verticals were probably 2'3", so he had to pay some attention to his feet but didn't need to be worried.
Then M added two more verticals on the other long side, and I was just supposed to jump them individually as well. We trotted most things, cantered occasionally if we were in a rhythm, but most of my job was to be bossy about pace while also riding relaxation into him. I counted my strides in a soft, soothing tone (which helped my body language be softer and more soothing, and hence relaxed the stripey-faced one). The only trouble we ran into was that he wanted to lurch left after one of them, so M set out two blocks for us to go through. We missed them the first time, but got them every time after that. In fact, I think it made the jump go better and he started looking for the boxes to go through, because he is a clever lad.
After we did those a few times, we added in the skinny cross rail down center line. It was pretty easy for him and we didn't have to worry about pace before or after.
The whole school took a good while, mostly just repeating jumps while I insisted that we stay in a relaxed rhythm. "Be the professional," and "it's your bit so he can't take it" were the things M said that stuck with me. I think maybe the ride looked a little worse than it felt, because M was concerned that I might be worried. I assured her that I was not, and that it just felt like a jump school on a green horse. She agreed, and we were both pleased that there were no stops or run-outs at all (NO MORE RUN-OUTS EVER). Also, on his walk breaks between sets, he was calm and happy to walk around on a loose rein, which a lot of horses won't be when they're a little nervous.
Then the lesson was over and M told me to go for a walk around the fence line because he needs to practice being outside the ring as much as possible over the next month before his first baby horse trials in May (intro level, because we're badass and can only handle tripping hazards out in the open right now I think). So she went to open the gate, and he was wiggling and being really rude, and she sent me to walk back up the long side and halt three times on our way back down to the gate. That took time to sort out because he kept stepping backwards. I didn't touch him with my legs or hands, and if I said "woah" he'd stop. He's so weird. When we finally got him to stand still, I walked out through the gate and turned to start our walk around the outside of the ring. Something told me to loop a finger under the neck strap JUST as he started to take three big leaps forward. We exchanged words over that issue, but when we turned the corner towards the driveway, he was like "FUCK THIS NOISE" and really lost his marbles. Bucking, rearing, running sideways, trying to leap forward. So I got him to the point that I could jump off before I fell off (not that I felt close to falling off--the Antares really is magical).
I led him back to the ring and got back on. We schooled walk/halt transitions for awhile, and by that time M was coming back up with the horse she was going to ride. She was like, "sooooo you're back in the ring?" and I told her about how his brain fell out and rolled down the hill into the woods like a marble. With her eyeballs on me (always makes me feel better to know someone can call 911 immediately), I headed out to try again. This time he was much much better, and I surprised M pleasantly by not just circling the outside of the ring, but going on our whole planned walk. She was like, "Go Jess!" And I was all, "HE IS GOING TO GO ON THIS HACK AND HE IS GOING TO ENJOY HIMSELF GODDAMMIT." But after another minute or so, I was patting his neck and talking to him and generally letting him know that we do not have to stress about being outside of the ring. It can be our happy place, too, and he'll learn to like it.
Saturday I didn't want to stress him out, so I just walked him around in the ring for about 15 minutes. I'm pretty sure he was asleep. I didn't think it would help to do anything he'd find challenging at all, because Sunday was Show Day and the only thing I needed to make the show work was a relaxed horse. To be continued.