I had my first ride on Jimmy today. I took my time tacking up to make sure there were no bad habits or behaviors that he might have. I was not surprised to find that he stood still throughout the grooming and tacking process. He does toss his head a little bit when bridling, but I believe this will stop as he figures out the routine. I have also found him much more sensitive to men than to women. While he is very aware of hands moving around his face, he is much more reactive to it when its a man’s hands.
On to the riding part…we started out getting used to the mounting block. Because I am rather short and Jimmy is rather tall, I used a small kitchen step ladder for mounting. He wasn’t too sure about it, nor about my dressage whip. I did spend a good 10 minutes rubbing the whip all over him to assure him that I was not going to hurt him. However, I ended up ditching it before I got on because he is extremely sensitive to it and I didn’t want to end up accidentally tickling him once I was on. I will be working on the sensitivity issues to the whip with each ride so that he understands he won’t ever be punished with one again.
Jimmy stood quietly while I mounted, but as soon as I took contact with the reins, he charged off at a quick walk. I immediately started working on yielding him to one rein at a time. He quickly learned that when I take one rein, if he stops moving his feet and lowers his head, he gets to have the rein back. After he was consistently stopping his feet, I required that he give the bit. This took him a bit longer to figure out and I don’t think he’s quite 100% yet. Through this process, I quickly discerned that he is very hard mouthed and extremely stiff through his body. At first, it was very difficult for him to even bend his neck to the right, let alone relax or flex at his poll.
In addition, because of the bow on the front left, he has become accustomed to keeping the majority of his weight on his right front leg. This makes it VERY difficult for him to lift the right shoulder or not fall in to the right when walking. It is EXTREMELY difficult for him to walk in a circle to the right while moving his shoulders outwards (expanding the size of the circle). He just wants to spiral inwards to the right. We worked mostly to the right because he was so stiff this direction. Towards the end of our ride, he was able to shift some of his weight to the outside (left front) and take small steps outward on the circle. He definitely needs work to the left as well, but as to be expected, he is definitely more fluid to the left.
While we only walked on this ride and only rode for about 20 minutes, I found Jimmy to be very quick to pick up what I was asking. I also realized that when he’s confused, his tendency is to shut down and stop. Whenever he wasn’t sure what I wanted, instead of rushing forward, he would come to a stop and wait for me to tell him what to do. As soon as he was clear on what the command was, he was happy to try his best to complete the task asked of him.