So yesterday I made a point of focusing on it, and I learned the following:
- Afton has a giraffe head to rival Rosey, which is an accomplishment
- Afton doesn’t quite have the ability to keep his body aligned on a curve, and likes to “motorcycle” his turns
- He really, really, likes to chew and jaw on the bit
- Once you have warmed up, he doesn’t quite get the point of walking
- If you lean forward to pet him, that’s a signal to go back to work (my own horse, by the way, has the opposite view. Pats on the neck mean STOP, darnit!)
I knew a lot of these things before, but we’ve not really concentrated on working on any of them yet, so today was an adventure. There was lots of this:
I was on a horse bulletin board the other day where people were complaining about a movie poster for “Australia” because it showed abusive riding, because the horse was gaping in the mouth. So now I feel like an evil horse abuser, though I was pretty much just letting him do his own thing (note the incorrect lead). And do excuse my head, someone outside the ring was talking to me. On a more positive note, we also got a little of this:
So he’s not real round or anything there, but I like how engaged he is behind, and how much he reaches in front. He’s got to learn to sort of put things together, but he at least is a nice forward going guy.
After working around a little, and realizing that he gets a little anticipatory, AND he likes to do weird things on turns (in both directions, at different times, he’ll lean in, or bulge out, with different parts of his body), we went back to working mostly at the walk. I know, boring, but I think the walk gets neglected a lot, even though there’s lots you can do.
So I stopped, asked him to give his head in both directions (which he’s not real good at yet, either- this is not a flexible horse at this point in time). Then we practiced an elementary turn on the forehand, to get him thinking about shifting the hindquarters in response to leg. He’s actually pretty good at that, which surprised me a little. After that, I began asking the same questions on a small circle- shift the hindquarters away from my leg, and turn from the outside rein. He was jawing the bit like mad, and I’m starting to think this is just a habit, something he does when he’s thinking hard (kind of how like, when I’m concentrating like crazy, I bite/chew on my lips, which is more than anyone really wanted to know about me).
Eventually we went back to the trot, and just kept turning- figure eights, serpentines, etc… when he wanted to lean in and drift in on a turn, I just turned that into a little circle, working to get closer to a real bend. It only halfway worked. We did eventually get some really nice trot, where he tried to stretch down a little bit. Of course, stretching down for Afton doesn’t mean very far… he doesn’t have that flexibility yet, but he tried, and we also found a nice, more comfortable and rhythmic trot.
Afterwards we walked down the driveway and hopped one of the logs to end on a good note.