Sully has really begun to surpass my expectations as to how long it was going to take to achieve progress during his 5-6 months of professional training with my dressage trainer.
There are many reasons I can see for this success vs. the relative difficulty we had a year and a half prior in regards to full training:
- Age: we are now nearing 5, which is really cutting down on the “baby brain” moments that get in the way of him buckling down and working.
- Ulcer prevention: I am confident that when he is off preventative measures in the ulcer department, they simply crop right back up and he starts to display jumpy, bolty, stubborn, delinquent behaviors. Keeping him on a maintenence dose of omeprazole and a beet pulp based feed (with lots of quality hay, of course) proves to put him at his best.
- Steady program: due to his age, I had backed off of strict training because I thought maybe he just wasn’t ready. Being in a 5 day a week program is giving his brain and body an outlet now that the brain can clearly handle a little pressure.
- My own patience: last go around in training, I just wanted a rideable horse ASAP. This time I didn’t care if she took three months just teaching him to lunge without turning into a kite.
So, focusing on that last note: the timeline, we are two months into training and she has him lunging WTC under tack with loose side reins (with tons of beautiful stretching), has schooled him through numerous mounting exercises (in which he is to stand quietly while she lays across the saddle, swings her legs around, stands up in the saddle, drops back down and slides off his butt), as well as done a myriad of desensitation sessions with falling and flying blocks, umbrellas being opened over his head, etc. I thought this horse would be 20 before he stood still at a mounting block, and now he is a borderline circus pony falling asleep while jump blocks are stacked on his saddle and pushed off the side. To say I’m pleased is an understatement!
About two weeks ago began actual “free” undersaddle work, and he is already WTC under saddle as of the end of last week. He is stretching willingly into a long and low frame and maintaining through his transitions. I knew he would progress faster in that department because he was always a gem under saddle and has way more confidence with a rider on his back. However, now I have so much more comfort that we didn’t skip steps just to shortcut to that awesome horse undersaddle. He has 200% more in the way of fundamentals. As I look at getting back into horses and facing my fears after an on the ground accident, it is more important than ever to me that my horses are receptive and obedient to ground control.
Oh, did I mention I am such a spoiler and have started shelling out extra for massages and bodywork every week for the booger as well? Well I have, and the lover of touch and groom that he is, he is lapping up every second. It is also helping immensely as he begins to really use his muscles. He has a dropped left shoulder (probably from track work and just simply from the fact he is an organic being, we all have imperfections!) which resonates all the way back to his hind end exhibiting in a “lagging” right hind leg and stifle. She is slowly working on postural changes that will hopefully correct this over time and ensure he is building the RIGHT muscles.
It truly takes a village to build a wonderful horse from the ground up.
So how are my current feels? Excited, confident, assured, and really glad I took this time to give Sully a genuine chance before selling him. He has a brilliant brain and we are on a bright looking track!