I had a fantastic ride on Merlot on Saturday (you know, before I fell off and broke my foot) and I'd love to share some interesting things I've discovered.
First I started out on the lunge with him. He has insane lunging anxiety and just motorcycles around. My only goal was to get him to relax and walk. Just walk on the lunge. It took a little bit of coaxing and our circles were very small but he started to get the concept that lunging doesn't always mean run around like a maniac.
I spoke with J about this and she told me about how when he was first abandoned here, the owner did attempt some training with him. At one point, she had him in his paddock and was attempting to lunge him on a short lead rope and beating him with the lunge whip frequently. SO uh, that explains a lot. Poor guy.
I hopped on and he felt a little humpy in his back at first and wanted to try and pull some baby horse antics like just backing up into eternity. I'm not 100% sure on his "training" so I'm not super surprised. After a few minutes of really basic work he relaxed and settled right into his routine. He had a few issues with steering and I had a lightbulb moment.
This whole time I've been riding him like he is a greenie. I only use aids that I think he knows. As soon as I started actually riding him like a trained horse, he improved SO much. Our steering issues were 100% gone. Interesting what turning with your eyes, seat, and outside thigh can do. I reveled my discovery to J and she explained that you have to ride them like this or they never really learn how and what aids are. I felt like a moron.
Anyways, we moved forward to cantering! We both had no idea what to expect and let him just fall into it. And y'all his canter is so rhythmic and soft and lovely. I was swooning. But I was also being a bad rider and letting him fall on the forehand (he is pretty weak behind). This led to my demise.
He seems to be really struggling with getting the right lead canter. We eventually got it, and like ten seconds before I broke to a downward, I leaned/reached forward to stroke his neck and tell him he is a good boy. He is also on the forehand. He stumbled, I fell on his neck, and he threw himself up to try and catch himself from falling. At this point I was airborne and was like "well..shit". I was falling outward and was not going to land nicely on his back so I let myself fall to the side, where my left foot got a little twisted in the stirrup on the way down.
I fell on my lower back and got the wind knocked out of me. A large groan and several minutes of screaming profanities and I was sitting up. Poor Merlot was mortified and had no idea what just happened. J said that she doesn't believe anyone has ever fallen off of him before. He was thoroughly concerned I was on the ground and was snorting at me, such a confused baby horse. I gave him some pets on his head and he settled, and I let J get back on to school a lap of canter just in case.
We anticipated some saucy behavior but homie just was relaxed and went right on forward. He never did get his right lead again but he was so relaxed and willing and full of try (and also; omg nothing wears him out) we let him end and decided to work on it another day. I hopped back on to just walk him out and definitely kicked him with my right foot on the way up. Oops. He didn't even care. Ugh <3 So forgiving. We tootled around on the buckle and my feet hanging out of the stirrups. I am so impressed with the brain on this guy.
I mostly blame myself for falling. If I would have been sitting up better and reached forward with just my hand and not my entire upper body I could have picked him up from his stumble. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.
I'm super bummed to not be riding/seeing him again this week because this guy has totally stolen my heart.
PS: RIES IS SOUND OMFG HIOSHERBESOI!!!