After giving Riley a few days to get over his culture shock, I’ve started getting in the saddle. Day 1 was just about walking around and letting him process the covered arena and mirrors. He thought he was very handsome at first glance, but after an initial sniff didn’t even notice that the mirrors existed.
Day 2 we started trotting and trying to maintain rhythm and direction. I know, thrilling stuff here. Besides some baby bulging through the shoulders, he’s got this one down. I got greedy and asked for a few steps of canter, which of course he ran into, but keeping balance and speed in the small covered arena was tricky so I didn’t push the matter.
Day 3 was rinse and repeat, with more emphasis on not bulging through the shoulder, at which we were somewhat successful. I added in the concept of contact and coming onto the bit, which was much more of a success. Riley is not blessed with a long swan neck, so keeping his neck soft and straight is probably going to be our biggest challenge.
Then last night, or Day 4 if you’re following along, I took him out to the outdoor ring. It’s a bit scarier in my opinion than the covered, in that there’s no view of any horses and it’s surrounded on 2 sides by a trailer park. But Riley handled it with bravado, marching around the arena, whinnying once, then becoming bored.
I warmed up by focusing on bending/not bulging and seeking contact with the bit. At the trot our main focus is regulating the rhythm, since that arena goes slightly downhill towards the gate he tends to speed up in that direction. Then we worked on the canter a little. My goal was just to get the canter, then maintain it for a couple laps in the arena. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got the canter depart within two-ish strides of my asking and we were able to repeat that a few times in each direction. Since Riley is still building up his fitness I wrapped up with that and cooled out on a long rein.
As I was driving home, feeling elated at what is seemingly such a simple ride, I was reminded of just how much working with horses means to me. I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity to work with this guy and I hope the next horse will benefit from our time together too.