Jimmy has found a new home. His adoption is pending and all looks well and is moving forward for him. And so, I have a new foster horse to play with. This new guy is Storm Cellar (aka Stormy). Stormy is a solid bay, just shy of 15.1h. He is very sweet and willing with a very comfortable walk and trot. Here is Stormy’s page at FFI: http://horse.friendsofferdinand.org/index-%20three.html
Stormy arrived at the barn on Saturday and is fitting in very well. I rode him for the first time on Tuesday and he was very sweet. He stood well in the cross ties, although I’m not sure he entirely likes them. He stood quietly for grooming and picked up all four 4 feet. He also stood quietly for tacking. He doesn’t seem to have any vices when it comes to these tasks. The only thing he needs working on, in regards to grooming/tacking, is bridling. He has a bad habit of locking his jaw and throwing his head in the air when its time to bridle. We’re working on this. Today I coated his bit with Karo syrup and it helped, although he still lifted his head quite a bit. Its a good thing he’s not any taller than he is or I’d be in trouble. 🙂
Our ride was pleasant enough. Although he was trail ridden a lot at his previous home, we stayed in the indoor arena. I prefer to get to know a horse before I ride them outside. Anyhow, Stormy is quite sensitive to the riders seat. All I had to do was think “Halt” and he did. He also would move forward well off my seat. Like a typical ex-racer, he is very hard in the mouth and stiff throughout his neck. His conformation is a bit down hill and ewe-necked. Therefore, he has a tendency to hold his head up very high (like a giraffe). In other words, he carries and uses himself very upside down. He pulls himself around with his front end instead of pushing with the hind. When I rode him, we worked on flexing one side or the other, just to get him to release the poll, the neck and/or the jaw. Its going to require a confident rider to help him learn to be soft in the jaw and poll.
Today I free lunged him in the round pen with side reins on. I usually work new horses in the bitting rig and surcingle, but I left the bitting rig at home so I just used sidereins. I don’t particularly care for non-sliding sidereins because I feel like they have a tendency to bang unsteady horses in the mouths unless they are cranked in tightly. I much prefer to use the sliding siderein (which is what is on the bitting rig) so that if the horse moves their head around or up/down, they slide around in the siderein without losing contact with the bit. Anyhow, because of Stormy’s habit of pulling his head up, I chose to attach the sidereins to the underside of his girth and run them up between his front legs. This way, there was only pressure on the bit and poll when he lifted his head up. He was immediately rewarded for moving forward with a lowered and relaxed neck and jaw.
When I first attached them, he was certain he wouldn’t be able to move. He tried to rear once, but quickly decided that was a bad idea. After a couple of minutes of standing and walking slowly, he seemed to figure out that it was easier to go around with his head down, rather than up like a giraffe. His trot to the right is a little funky due to the weakness in his hind end, but his trot to the left looks quite nice and even. I believe this will continue to improve as the strength in his hind end and topline improves. Even when free lunging, he is currently very much on the forehand. But this too will improve as he is encouraged to work long, low and over his back.
I plan to take my camera next time I go out. I want to get pictures as well as video clips of him working in the round pen. I’ll have those posted on this site, as well as on his FFI page as soon as I’m able.