The past week has been full of new things for Hagrid. I introduced the side reins to him, which after a bit of chewing on the bit I was surprised how quickly he accepted them. Now, keep in mind when I say accept I don't mean within moments lift his back, round his neck and step up to the bit. He simply didn't throw a hissy fit with one side rein attached to the bit.
In the begining I only started with one on the inside trot and canter a few circles to introduce the new pressure. They are loose (on the last hole even) and I only use side reins with some sort of elastic give or stretch to them.
With my training I like to use either regular side reins with a rubber donut or Vienna reins. Vienna reins are long reins that attach either to the saddle or the girth then loop through the bit to attach to the dee rings or a surcingle on the horses back (think where the rider's hands would be). When the horse goes to lean on them for balance they slide through the bit instead. I like this action when I'm lunigng a horse that I know likes to lean too much, asking the rider to carry their full weight. My favorite brand of Vienna rein is the Ultimate Side Reins because they are so adjustable. However, when starting a youngster, especially a youngster whose bloodlines give him a highset super flexible and round neck I actually want him to stretch it down and round and put some weight against those side reins. Freisians, Arabians, Saddlebreds, really any horse that was gifted with a highset neck tends to have problem areas in stretching and connecting to the hand. Their modus operandi is to give a fake sense of connection, break at the third vertabrae and drop behing the verticle line. So, with this in mind I'm asking Hagrid to push down and out to something and want to do it, hence a solid leather side rein with a rubber donut.
Now, what I know about myself is that I tend to get stuck on things until they are 100% completed, finished, fixed whatever. With a baby horse this is just not the way to handle things. They need to be stimulated in positive and fun ways so as not to teach them to resent working. I am so hoping Hagrid becomes another William to me, a horse that can read my mind and enjoy what we do together. In a discussion with a close friend I told her, "I ride enough rude talented horses for my job. I wanted my next personal one to be a pleasure to be around. A horse to make me laugh and not cry." So far Hagrid has made laugh and swoon everytime we work together. Its a good start.
We also started trotting on the lunge line! This has been only brief since I don't want this big teddy bear to get the idea that trotting with a human is lazy work. Sometime's it is hard being the one to get on and trying to instruct the ground person and pay attention to your seat and pay attention to you horse and and and! Eventually it's hard to maintain a level of quality that one would want to undersaddle at all times. So we keep it brief. Small bursts of good trot (when we can get it) and lots of praise and walk. This keeps up with the theme of happy horse without force!
Towards the end of the week, I was able to shorten the side reins to an appropriate length. One that better suited his neck and took up a little contact with his bit. In this video you can start to see moments where he reaches out and brief glimpses of a lovely cadence and float to his trot. Thursday night it poured and poured causing my usually dry and perfect sand arena to be slop. This means I work everyone from babies to old timers out in the jump field. I didn't hesitate to take Hagrid out there since I felt he had a great grasp on the concept of Heeding and Lunging. If he would get scared of the neighours dogs barking through the fence or the squrriels jumping from tree to tree I had hoped he would look to me to see if he should indeed freak out rather than just tucking tail and hauling buns outta there! My feelings were correct and I was rewarded with a horse that was a little more fresh to the aids and perky in his step! I only wish I had video of some of the great floaty moments he gave me out there. Maybe next time!
I know that a brilliant level headed and fun Dressage partner is in there and with paitence and persistance I hope to draw it out!