Jack is doing really well now he’s in full time work, he’s mainly being hacked with the odd schooling session craftily thrown in to prevent him from getting bored and going stuffy in the arena. He has recently had a few Bowen treatments which seem to have made a huge difference in softening him up, and showing him that it is possible to bend your neck, and not use it as a stiff plank-like rudder! Riding him is a constant learning curve, having been very heavily handled in the past and never having been taught the foundations of proper schooling it’s really hard to know what will work for Jack so I have thrown away the rule book, and started writing a new one called ‘The Quirks & Perks of Mr Fry’
Yesterday I decided it was time to bite the bullet and take him out XC schooling to see what he was like. I have been preparing him for this by popping the odd XC fence whilst out hacking, and leading him through the empty trailer with his ‘pressure haltie’ on administering lots of polos because he is a nervous not very confident traveller. We got everything ready and didn’t drive the trailer out till the last minute so Jack was nice and calm because if he sees the trailer he begins to wind himself up. This method seemed to work a treat, ‘haltie’ on I walked him to the ramp and he went straight in first time, polos munched, doors shut up, engine started, and we were off. Mother and I were like the trailer loading tag team!
We arrived at Boomerang and I went off to pay (and admire the wallabies they have near the office, they were all sunbathing!) whilst mother walked him round to chill him out. He was much more relaxed than our last outing and very well behaved to tack up and get on. I worked him round the outside of the whole paddock in trot then canter popping in circles every now and again, and asking for a bit of flexion either way in the neck. He set off like a sewing machine, tense, short, jolty to ride, but after 2 laps he was starting to relax his back and neck a little so we attempted some small tyres. I jumped these a few times and after a while he settled, stopped bucking and kicking out at them, and started to listen. We then had a play over an axe shaped fence, a banana, a carrot, and the steps complex round the water. He went straight in the water, came back to a walk to asses the step out and climbed up it. You can’t MAKE Jack do anything, he just switches off, and ignores you so you have to get him on side. The few fences we had jumped I strung together and did a little course then attempted to go down the step into water.
Jack just stood rigid on top of the step ignoring me, it, and all encouragement. I sat there kicking, talking to him, moving him around, representing, and basically scratching my head for 10 mins then I gave in as I knew this was going to require wet feet. I hopped off and got in the water holding the reins with a constant pressure (like his haltie) I just held the contact encouraging him down, he remained rigid for a short while staring into space and ignoring me then breakthrough, he looked down. He looked at the step and shuffled his feet, he was on the verge of giving it a go, hunkering down to either launch or gingerly test one foot in the water. I was really hoping he didn’t launch as I already had a pretty bad case of rising damp and didn’t want to get any wetter! He tentatively put one leg then the other and walked off the step, Yipeeeee! Huge pats for Jack and I lead him up down, up down again before getting on and riding perfectly up and down the steps into and out of water.
He’s not a naughty horse he has just never been asked to do anything like this before, and getting a previously roughly treated exrace/P2Per to trust and perform for you is a lot harder then persuading a green 4 yr old as I’m rapidly finding out! I was very pleased with his progress throughout the session, his behaviour, and the great feel he gave me over the fences because he was giving everything plenty of room! Next stage I think is to go to Rabson Manor as they have a whole mini course, keep everything small, get his confidence up, and build on todays trust building exercises, oh and try to dry my boots out!