Yes, it finally happened, the first ride. And it was great! But first things first, I spent the weekend at the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Norco. Cindy and her horse Hannah ended the competition in 9th place, which is a great achievement in itself, but many attendees (both public and officials) stopped by after to let her know they felt her performances should have placed her much higher. She really showed the versatility of the mustang breed in her Freestyle performance, by riding dressage, then jumping, then chasing a cow – all in her dressage saddle and shadbelly! I took tons of photos, you can find them in several sections at my photo site in the Horse Images section: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deserttrailrider/collections/
And then, on Monday afternoon, 5/21/12, Zeke and I ventured out for our first ride. I had taken him out that morning to ground drive, and he did a great job driving all through the big pasture, over obstacles, and around the ranch. When we returned in the afternoon, Zeke’s many fans turned out to watch him go! Cristina, Claire, Cindy B., Jan, Alyce and Ryan, and Kristen and Nathan all came to watch, and of course Cindy was on hand to make sure I did everything correctly! Claire got some pictures as we got ready and rode.
We went to the small round pen – Cindy said use the large one if I think I will have good control, the small one if I wasn’t sure. I thought I would have good control – but I knew I’d feel like I didn’t for our first few rides, so we picked small to boost my confidence! We headed out there and did a short lunging session, then I climbed on the railings and laid over his back, as usual. Then I just slid my leg over and sat, and he stood still like a perfect gentleman.
Then I asked him to go forward by using the verbal commands he knows from all our ground work, and a light squeeze of my leg. And he stood still like a perfect young horse on his first ride! Heheh – he didn’t get it, of course, and he showed he was the type of horse to stand still when confused, rather than run off in terror – which was OK by me! So we began with me turning his head to the rail, using my legs as he came out of the turn to encourage him forward. I did this many times to ‘unstick’ his feet, and he did always move, though he never really got ‘forward’ from that.
At that point, Cindy stepped into the pen and stood in the middle, then encouraged him forward as I asked. He understood someone in the center asking him, so off he went!
This is pretty typical of a first ride. It takes a little time to transfer the cues the horse has learned from the ground to someone on his back, and Zeke and I did very well. We walked and trotted, turned into the rail a couple times, and practiced a few stops. The main mistakes were mine – once I just plain forgot he was a baby, and I gave him a hard kick because he’d stopped going forward. When he then lurched ahead I snatched my reins back a bit, but Cindy reminded me not to do that and I fixed it quickly! At this stage of the game, the object is ‘go forward’. If I ask for forward, I should never punish for the speed at which he replies! All that finesse comes later, right now, it’s pretty much forward, stop, turn.
The end of a great first day! Our workouts for the first few days will be short, 10 – 15 minutes, then slowly increase. The goal in the beginning is to have each experience be positive for us both. Once we’ve established the riding basics, we will go for longer sessions – and inevitably, we will have an argument. But by then our basics should be good enough for any argument to be short-lived and resolvable!
Tuesday, day 2 riding was just as good. This time Cindy started off in the arena with me, encouraging Zeke forward and we rode along. Eventually she stepped out – and sure enough, Zeke stopped going! I tried turning and tapping him through, but he still wasn’t sure, so Cindy stepped back in and clucked. After a few minutes she left again, and this time we kept going! We were able to stop, go, and turn without anyone in the center directing him. He was beginning to understand the cues as I gave them from his back.
So today, ride 3, I went out to the round pen alone. Cindy was riding in the wood arena right next door, but it was just the two of us in the roundpen. We lunged, I got on, and…we went! We walked and trotted by ourselves, Zeke understanding and responding correctly to everything I asked of him. We started making some small circles today at the walk and trot, and changing direction through the center of the pen. He did really well, though he has a tendency to stall when asked to trot through a turn. By the time we ended our session, he was trotting through with just a bit of hesitation left.
Tomorrow and Friday we plan to do two rides each day, to really get us off to a good start before I go back to work on Sunday. On Saturday I will be in a parade with my horse Slim, so Zeke will get his ride after that! Then it’s two days off, Sunday and Monday, then right back into a daily ride schedule! I’m looking forward to it!