So I've been riding both horses at the new barn. Tax seems relaxed...almost sedate. Maybe he can tell how much more relaxed I feel. I'm SO happy not to have to rush around cleaning stalls or riding other people's horses right now. I can just focus on him. We've already made some progress.
His trot is becoming even more consistent and I can get him to respond to the lightest of touches with my calf now. I've been using a 1,2,3 method that was recommended and works wonders with him. 1. Is the nice, light touch I'd like to use. 2. Is a demand to respond and if we get to 3. Someone's in trouble. The nice thing is now we rarely ever get to three. We worked for a week on going straight and I focused on controlling his shoulders because he sometimes throws it in to bend the wrong way, avoid the outside rein and just kind of overpower you rather than listening. He's a kind horse and doesn't really go anywhere just didn't want to work hard. Now that I can control his shoulder better he's making better contact with my outside rein and carrying himself better which allows me to ask for more impulsion from behind. So now we've been working at the trot on some pretty tight serpentines and circles and he can finally balance his huge body enough to keep that impulsion through the turns. Plus since he's listening to my legs and seat so much better I can just look where I want to go and he's headed that way. It's a good floaty feeling and a trot I can even feel comfortable sitting if I want.
Next we started working on his canter again. Again I've been reading Mugs advice on working with her reined cowhorses and trying to find ways to apply it to riding English with Tax. I realized I may have been too focused on trying to get him low and relaxed when jumpers don't really move that way. So now I'm focusing on a more uphill movement but something slow enough I can control it through a turn. I started him trotting around the rail. When he was calm and round I'd ask for the canter down the long end of the arena. First we focused on just getting him to stop without pulling on him. At the end of the long side I'd say whoa, ask for the halt and sit and settle. When he was doing that pretty consistently without breaking into the death trot or making me pull hard I added a back for a couple of steps. Once we had that I'd ask for a rollback on the fence and ask for the canter the other directions from a walk. Then stop at the end, back and rollback the other direction. It's at least making him think about the fact that I don't want him to just race around full speed. I ended by asking for a canter around the arena with a couple of smaller circles and we actually did it at a speed that didn't make me nervous. PS - the deeper sand in the arena at the new barn really helps slow him down too!
December and I have been sticking with the round pen for now. She's been on kid detail. As long as we keep her in the round pen she's SO good for the kids to ride because she's balanced and comfy and for some reason never acts up in the round pen. My niece has been coming out to ride pretty regularly and she's starting to get balanced. It's been really fun watching her go from not being able to get December to listen to the point where she can ask for all three gaits, steer and she's even starting to let go of the saddle horn (which she didn't need anyway but it made her feel better). One of the gals at the new place who does some Dressage even complimented the kid on her seat this last time. If we get her a saddle that fits instead of making her use mine I think she's going to look pretty darn good.
Sunday the niece and I spent the whole day looking at western pleasure horses for us. I still plan to sell December and get a quiet kid's horse. Niece is thinking about doing 4H and I want to try some amateur WP showing. I’d like a horse that could cross over and do some English pleasure or Hunter Under Saddle classes as well. I can't tell you how frustrating it has been to know how to ride and then to get on a horse and not be able to get it to do anything. I've never used spurs before and because I don't sit back far enough (too many years of hunt seat) I can't get most well trained WP horses to lope to save my life. Interestingly, the niece doesn't have as much trouble with it. I'd like to think maybe it’s because she's new enough she's a little more of a clean slate.
There are two I’m seriously considering. One is a little more old school in her WP movement. She’s got that slow jog and almost crippled looking lope but she’s moves out nicely when asked and could probably do okay in the English classes as well. She’s a registered paint, but solid fleabitten gray and I guess they’re working on her AQHA papers. She’s 11, calm, well trained with a ton of show experience with youth and ammy riders. She has a lot of points in APHA and won a couple of buckles over the summer in WP. She’s also done some showmanship classes with the kids. She goes in a full bridle and neck reins. She’s spur spot trained. Totally finished. I love her big beautiful calm eyes and she has a pretty tail. I love grays but really didn’t want another one right now. And she’s a couple thousand more than I wanted to spend but I think she’s priced reasonably. I could do it but it would hurt I’d have to hold off on buying show tack and the new trailer I’ve been wanting for a while.
The other is pretty well broke too and probably more versatile. She’d go English nicely but isn’t as smooth feeling as some of the WP horses. I love watching her deep slow hocks and can’t get her pretty movement out of my head. She doesn’t have as much show experience but was also quiet, kind and very forgiving of learning riders. She a big black and white tobi paint so we might want to show in the APHA circuit with her. She’s six and if I remember right we rode in a snaffle so I’m not sure if she still needs to be trained with the curb bit but I think they said she had been. One of the bonuses is that I loved the assistant trainer at this place and would feel very comfortable getting some lessons here to learn to ride well enough to learn all the WP cues. Also this mare is right in my price range and I think the owners would take an offer which means I could look for a show saddle.
Another option is to buy from the barn my h/j training is working from. They breed paint pleasure horses but I think they’re a little overpriced. I could see if they’d be willing to take an offer. The mare I took my lesson on out there was honestly the best loper of the bunch (I like a little more natural movement and not the peanut roller lope) as far as I’m concerned but they wanted as much for her as the 11 year old well trained horse and she’s a green broke 3 year old. I mean, she’s a doll and I’d throw any of my kids up on her in a heart beat and feel confident she isn’t going to do anything stupid but she’s not spur stop broke yet and she’s still in a hackamore (that won’t change until 5 I think). Anyway, so I’d have to have them put some more training into her. She’s maybe a little smaller than I would want and a little more white then the judges like (chestnut overo with max white) but really lovely movement.
Choices…such a wonderful and frustrating luxury. I guess I shouldn’t complain…I’ve met some nice people too. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the APHA western show world out here but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We also looked at a green broke bay minimal overo mare with a bald face. I liked her too but think we need something just a little more broke. It was nice though because I think the trainer there liked us and thought we’ll be a good home. That always makes me feel good. The trainer of the black and white paint was very kind and complimented my riding even though I felt like a total goof. Something I do when I’m riding turns makes the WP horses stop dead. I think it’s because I want to wrap my legs around to move them through the turn rather than just bumping with my heels. Argh!