That title will probably come up badly if anyone feels inspired to search for this post on Google, but whatever. Its not like I'm gunning for any followers and am probably the main reader of this train wreck lol.
But yes, Sexy Black Horse is sexy, I'll admit it now. I guess that was never in question really but my version of "sexy" is normally "reliable, dependable, intelligent, etc" so its probably not super accurate as the general public sees things. She's attractive to look at without a doubt, but what I'm seeing underneath has me sold.
Jade is basically the half of me that people don't see in public really. She's goofy, she's wicked smart, sometimes fails epically but owns it without batting an eye. She's a giant black goober of a horse that will try her heart out if she understands what the mission is. I really am thrilled to have her in my life and she's always enthusiastic to see me (yes, even without food) and is showing me how game she can be. Even for a light draft horse.
When I picked out a breed, I wanted versatile, willing, smart and durable. I knew Friesians were supposed to be people critters too and Jade definitely is all of these things. What has me really loving her though is the issues we're dealing with. Her canter WAS great(ish) in PA, but since I've got her its mostly been a buck into it (if I'm lucky) and then we trot on. She's not happy cantering and I needed to work on that since the rest of it is looking gor-geous (for a 4 year old).
So we are hitting the round pen.
So many people have asked me about this and if I'd do my "horsemanship" things with her and yes, I am. Granted she's not in serious boot camp like my "problem" horses were/are but she's much more respectful, responsive, and willing than when I first got her. And yes, less spoiled brat and more partner. Even as a goobery 4 year old. Learning to canter in the round pen is just about the first "real" session we've done though as I've fit the rest in mostly during our normal chores.
Why the round pen? Well, its either me or her or both that can't get this cantering under saddle. She was also trained with A LOT of leg and while I could be in better shape strength wise, its not my mission in life to pony kick a 1400lb horse through a dressage test. I want my horses doing two things under saddle always: maintain speed and direction. Jade's not super good at either really. So we've been hitting the round pen. The goals are work on her transitions, her responsiveness, her fitness, and her willingness to just try even if it might mess up. I knew she wasn't a "program" horse or else I wouldn't be in possession of her so here we are. This is how I know to break things into small bite sized pieces and move onward.
The first day was rough. I decided to use my pen at the house as its much bigger than the one at the barn as well as having much much much better and level footing. I inadvertently forgot my lunge whip at the barn though and had to use my "trainer stick" for this event (heavy and less reach for me). Having tack in 3+ locations sucks. We get in the pen and she's all SWEET GRASS! And thus we begin moving off when I ask (huge shock to her). After our first trailer loading "issue" months ago, I know how stoic she can be so this exercise required a lot more output on my part initially, but by the end she was eagerly changing directions facing me, resting when asked, and trotting continuously. Her canter was... difficult... but we got it in both directions and I rewarded her for being so clever. We did also work on her semi-habitual kicking out and bucking when asked for transitions and you could see she was like whaaa? really this is bad? mkay... maybe no more of that.
While I was sweating balls and out of breath in this 30 minute session.
She then got a nice bath in our driveway and began the path to learning to ground tie for reals. She did SOOO well and I realized at this point how much she'd learned from being at the barn and all our mini lessons just being around me. Bath was done and I tossed her back into the round pen with a pat to actually graze while I rode Katy. She watched me for the longest time but finally decided to graze but was always attentive whenever I was on the move. Such a good girl. Beth > Food? Maybe.
We did round two a few days later and I remembered the lunge whip this time. Jade remembered what to do in the round pen. Smart horse is smart (y). This time it was much much much better than last time and I think the total time we worked was like 15 minutes. She remembered all the direction things, the responsiveness things, skipped the kicking out 90% of the time, and happily cantered to the right. I began systematically rewarding for 2 strides of canter and pretty soon she was all, oh you like TWO strides? How about the WHOLE THING!? I let her rest at that point and told her she was so clever. To the left however, she's just not as balanced BUT she did try. Like whoa. Even getting tired, even with cross cantering, she didn't kick out and just kept trying to offer SOMETHING until it was righter. Once we got a few up transitions (immediately back down of course), I let her rest and told her she was so clever again. Another ground tied bath (only one correction!) and she was a happy camper.
I'm going to continue this path and work to riding her in the pen with a transition to the open. It shouldn't take long and I like that this HUGE canter issue is so easy to resolve like this. No it won't be perfect, but if she just understands "canter until I say something else," my life will be sooo much easier. We're also going to start hacking at the trot soon to start building more muscle and work on transitions. Her lateral work is sooo nice and its obviously so much easier for her so we'll add that in to make her feel spiff.
And my legs will be happy!