We are five weeks (and counting) back in to groundwork with Spike and he is doing so much better. If you follow me on Instagram and watch our IG stories you would already know how impressed I was by his behaviour during our last lesson. I’ve decided to share a lot of behind the scenes ‘stuff’ via IG stories so if you want to keep right up to date that’s the place to be!
In the last session (which was well over a week or so ago now) we worked on hooking on, yielding hindquarters, FAB and I also tried his saddle and new pad on to assess the fit. We started the session as we always do with our walk up the laneway, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts he was very hesitant walking up the laneway. At first I thought he was fearful of being out of his paddock, now I think it’s because he knows he is going to be worked because when he walks back down the lane after a session he is completely different – i.e much more eager and willing to go for that walk. This time he only stopped a couple of times and it was to say hello to some of the horses we went past, so I was pretty happy with that progress. He is also much more respectful when leading, he walks next to me and isn’t barging like he was the first few sessions.
Once we got up to the roundyard we started with hooking on. He was particularly energetic and kept breaking in to a canter even though I had only asked for a trot. I find that the first few minutes in the roundpen he always has a bit of energy to burn and can be quite explosive. I generally just put this down to the fact that he’s never really been in regular consistent work, and even though he is 14 years old he is still quite ‘immature’. It never takes long for him to settle down though and I found after a few minutes he was working at a nice steady trot and listening to cues. He is doing great with the hooking on but it still quite unfit, which is why I have been persisting with it even though he is good at it. We’ve been working at a trot to try and build his fitness although I must admit I don’t know if my efforts have helped… the work we’ve been doing has been sporadic thanks to the bad Winter weather. Did I mentioned it’s rained straight for the last two weeks?
After the hooking on we moved on to yielding hindquarters. This is definitely something he needs work on. I found I had to be quite high energy to get him to shift his hindquarters and that is not what I want at all, the aim is to get him moving the first time he’s asked and moving off a light touch or cue. He used to do this so I know he can but he’s always been a bit stubborn.
After I got a couple of decent yields from him I let him rest and absorb the lesson and then we moved on to fitting his saddle. He hasn’t had a saddle on in over 12 months. Right after we got his saddle fitted and bought our special pad I found out I was pregnant and so I STILL haven’t ridden in it. I wanted to check if it still fit, as Spike has put on some weight and it was originally fit to him without the pad. When I put it on I noticed it wasn’t bridging like it used to, and that’s thanks to the addition of the pad but it was very perched on his wither. The WintecLite has a changeable gullet so I dropped in to my local Horseland and grabbed the next gullet size up. He was originally Yellow (narrow) and we’ve moved up one size to the Green (medium narrow). I’ve yet to change them over so hopefully it will be a much better fit now.
Once the saddle was on I decided to work Spike a little with it on. As I said, he hasn’t had a saddle on for over 12 months and he took to it really well. He was fine while I was playing around with the pads and adjusting the girth which was reassuring. I did a little bit of the FAB exercise with the saddle on to get him used to having the saddle on again and feeling what it’s like to work with a saddle on. He did really well all things considered.
I also recently renewed my subscription to Warwick Schillers online program, which I followed with Spike when he was in work before I fell pregnant. I had been doing work with him using what I had remembered from before but decided to sign up again as my commitment to myself to continue to learn more and build a better partnership.
I’m really excited to see such a change in him already. When we first started back he was like a completely different horse and now he’s starting to resemble the Spike I knew before I fell pregnant. We still have a lot of work to do on the ground but I know it won’t be too long before we are back in the saddle. I must say that I am both excited AND nervous about that, because it’s been such a long time since I’ve ridden. I’ve always been a pretty nervous rider after a fall I had as a teen when a horse bolted on me but I’m also excited about getting back in to it and hope I’ll be able to overcome my nerves!
The next session we will be working on hooking on again, I may try and get him in to a canter this time and I’d also like to work on some FAB to help him with his focus. Something he struggles with big time! If all goes to plan, I think we’ll only need a handful more roundpen sessions and then we can move on to groundwork! YAY!
If you are interested, I filmed the entire session and you can watch it here.