Anderson traveled to Oregon this past weekend to the lovely Northwood Stables for a clinic with Joel Conner. It was an opportunity to see how well he would work in a new place, around different horses. I am happy to report that Andy was brilliant! There was absolutely no bad behavior or changes in his temperament being in an unfamiliar place. He did well traveling both down and back, and stayed relaxed from the moment he got off the trailer through everything that was asked of him.
Over the last few months, our work has hit some rough patches. Sometimes as riders we can get discouraged when the training isn’t always taking a linear route straight up. I discovered a hole in his foundation in regards to acceptance of the back cinch which has caused some setbacks. This trouble was in there and while we were getting away with rides without dealing directly with it, it was bound to show up in other areas. It’s not something you can expect to fix overnight. Consistency and patience will help him relax when things touch his flank area and hopefully prevent any big blowups in the future. At the clinic, Joel was able to give me some ideas as to how I can go about helping Anderson deal with things touching him.
We have also been struggling with attitude around the right lead canter. This is a difficult lead for him to pick up and he has had troubles with it since the beginning. Horses, like humans, have a dominant side and a weaker side. Anderson’s weakness tends to show up when he is tracking to the right and his weaker left hind is forced to take up weight. During the clinic, we worked on riding him straighter and maintaining flexion when tracking to the right. He can hold this at the walk and trot but it’s hard to do in long stretches of canter/lope. This weakness was evident during the clinic so this was the one thing I really wanted to work more on when we got home.
The clinic also afforded us the opportunity to ride with a few more advanced horsemanship riders and horses. We were able to play a little with more advanced maneuvers such as haunches in and walk-canter departs. As always, Joel’s instruction and guidance is a wonderful reminder of the importance of a good foundation. If we let things slide and let holes develop, we begin to have troubles as we ask more from the horses. This is what I love about the horsemanship training. The SAFE horses are getting a spectacular training foundation that will allow their future adopters to take them in so many directions. This work revolves around getting the horses to a place of peaceful acceptance and partnership with humans. Take Anderson for example. Three years ago, he was a wild aggressive stallion who was frightened to the point of attacking us as we attempted to rescue him. Now he is gentle to handle, accepts a rider, and successfully travels to new locations without issue. Horsemanship works! Horses like Anderson are living proof that huge changes and positive transformations can be the result of consistent and fair training.