On Monday (maybe someday I won't be DAYS behind in posting updates), I took Red over to M's for a dressage school. It was really fun because I also put my mom's gaited horse on the trailer and we took a lesson together! We haven't done that in awhile, although we used to all the time. It turned out to be more like two private lessons (she'd take a walk break and M would pick on me, and then vice versa).
Part of the point of the lesson was to get Red off the farm and not jump. A normal horse, you take everywhere and jump everything whenever you can. Red needs to go to all my friends' farms and jump nothing so he becomes more rideable. I'd rather he ask whether we're jumping that day than just start picking out jumps from the minute I swing my leg over.
He's been really, really lovely on the flat at home lately, where he is relaxed. But when we were at M's, I was struggling to just get him onto the contact. He wanted to periscope, change the tempo, drop behind my leg, etc. I, in turn, had to do 65 things at once to get to a respectable trot, which we'd lose pretty fast. I fully appreciate how much this is helping my riding, but I was also like, "Jesus, this horse must have been hard to steer around the high adults." On the other hand, I know who his trainer was and I'm not totally sure that guy cares at all about how broke the horse is as long as it can jump. That's not really how I do things, and Red is my horse now so we have to get this sorted out.
I don't think he's going to be an easy horse to ride correctly when he's at all wound up. That's all fine. But it's become pretty clear that his ability to hold a steady contact while also maintaining the tempo AND doing things like changing direction or gait is... well, kind of lacking. And those are holes I should be able to fill. It'll make him a more pleasant ride and more fun to jump, I think (and putting the jumps up will also make them more fun, because he'll get a bit backed off by them).
I do think he tried for me, and was a bit mentally drained by the end of the lesson. I need six more lessons like that, I think, before he and I really have the concepts we were working on today. And it occurred to me how similar what I'm asking of him is to what I'm asking of Mo: steady contact, letting me pick the tempo. But it's easier on Mo, because I started him from scratch and he is thus being brought along the way I like horses to go. And because he's Mo, the world's cutest ever. But Red was brought up by people who have very different ideas than I do about what is useful in a horse, and so I'm having to go back and fix things. That's harder, man. Especially when the horse is 17 and really just wants to show off his jumping skills.
I'm so lucky to have Red. He's a fabulous horse with a lot to teach me, and I hope that we get to do a lot of fun things together.