Training Progression of Bast: Part 3, The Not-So-Early Rides
Once Bast was moved to field board, I wondered how our rides would change. At first, they didn't.
We had three rides together before I left for several days on a work trip. In those days, I continued the work begun in our early rides: investigating Bast's previous training, establishing basic commands (go, stop, turn), and introducing him to things he'd encounter in his life with me.
|While a bit squirrely to tack up in the open crossties in our field board barn, Bast stood fine for me to get on up there and hack down to the ring at the main barn.|
|Things horses in my life must eventually do... hack quietly down paved roads.|
I was pleased by how easily he hacked down to the main barn, and how quickly he was getting the hang of being ridden around other horses. His tendency to spook and jump at horses trotting or cantering in the ring was almost gone, and he was learning that another horse cantering alongside him wasn't a thing he needed to panic over.
|Look at this good boy standing quietly!|
His turning was coming along, though he still found turns at the canter (even in my generously sized indoor ring) hard. I decided to take him out for some work in the front field to see how well he would tolerate work out there. I've had OTTBs that learned to balance their canter better in the open, probably because they felt more free to experiment without worrying about running into walls. I wanted to see if Bast felt the same.
|Room to turn and burn, buddy!|
He walked out to the field just fine, though he walked faster and fell out through his shoulder more towards the barn. There was a little screaming, but he hadn't had a since his introduction to field board without screaming. Overall, I was very pleased with him. He didn't even care about Lyra's wild cavorting.
|Lyra zooms, DEPLOY!|
With all this good stuff under his belt, I headed off to my conference. On my return, I hoped to continue these positive introductions.
|Back at it...|
Of course the first day back, I thought it would be brilliant to take my newly restarted 5 year old OTTB out to the field he'd been in once and work him. It didn't take long before I was a little frustrated with him. I might not be a genius, but I did finally realize I needed to cut the baby some slack.
|"I iz just unsure baby horse in new job. I needz more slackz."|
His tension was high, and he seemed to think heading back toward his field mates was the smartest course of action. While we worked on large trotting and cantering circles, he attempted to bulge his shoulders hard to straighten himself and speed up toward the barn. I found myself having to haul him to a stop on more than one occasion. As we worked, though, he did relax a bit and we ended with a bit of a walk around the field exploring the xc jumps at close range. A few warranted a bit of a hairy eyeball, but he was quickly coaxed closer.
I made sure our next couple of rides were in the ring. While still full of screams, Bast was much more comfortable there. However, we were struggling a bit with the canter. He would launch into it, and brace against any attempt to slow it down. Sometimes cantering would get him worked up so much, I would get off and just walk him around a bit to help him relax. Nothing he was doing was bad at all, I wanted to make sure his rides ended on a positive and relaxed note. He was settled in trot and walk, so I figured working those more would help build his understanding and confidence when it came time to work the canter. We had no rush.
|Note. This is not relaxation.|
Meanwhile, I began working with Bast to become more comfortable away from his herd and walking around and off the property. As all of our trail rides require horses to cross a stream, I took him out in hand to explore the most inviting creek crossing.
|Off on an adventure!|
He was actually quite good for this. While he had extreme reservations about the uncertain footing, he quickly learned that attempting to exit stage left would learn him a free ticket to back up the rather steep slope down to the crossing.
|"Is this where the horse murder happens?"|
After three trips up the hill backwards, he quit resisting quite so hard and started instead to think about what I was asking. We ended the day crossing the creek a few times in hand and walking a ways around the cornfields.
With this preliminary work, I leapt at the chance to take him out when I found it. My old friend Hannah visited from out of town, and I planned out Bast's first trail ride. Hannah was familiar with Pig from our time back in Indiana, and she was happy to hop on him for a trail ride. I reminded her of Pig's tendency to jump any and all water, and we hopped up on the horses.
|It was really fun to have both my horses out at the same time!|
Even though he doesn't know Pig, Bast was happy to stroll along with him. He didn't mind taking the lead, or falling behind to follow. When we got to the water section, I hoped he would follow Pig right over the water. Unfortunately he did not. I ended up having to hop off and lead him over again, but he quickly graduated to crossing it under saddle. I was so proud of him.
|"Deep breaths. We got this."|
We headed off for a bit more of a hack, including some time in the woods. Coming back across the creek home, Bast remembered our earlier work and quickly leapt across it. Unfortunately, Pig's crashing leap over the creek behind us scared Bast witless, and he scooted into a panic. It was such an honest reaction, I couldn't help but laugh. He pulled up quickly and calmed fast, walking back to his field quietly. Poor baby horse, his life is just so hard.
|Really fun to have this first between the ears photo here, where I have a ton of similar ones from Pig's back.|
The next day I hopped on Bast in the outdoor ring. He was a total star. Unlike Pig, he is very consistent. Every day the same horse shows up to work in the ring. With Pig, you never knew what horse you would get. I really enjoy the consistency!
|Attitude consistency is hard to demonstrate via gif. Instead have this clip with his mouth gaping, but tempo so regular.|
At this point, he was starting to really grasp the basics we'd been working on. I was starting to work on teaching him to lower his frame some. While he didn't have contact to help yet, he was beginning to understand the concept of lowering his head. I couldn't help but be happy he was understanding that useful skill!
|Look at this much more balanced canter!|
I hadn't begun introducing the idea of bend, mostly traveling around in straight lines. I also hadn't begun any work on the concept of contact. However, I could feel a moment where Bast would drop into my hand for a half a step.
|That moment looked something like this ...|
During these brief times, I felt like I could simply push him forward right into my hand. While these moments weren't long enough to actually work on such things, I was really excited to know they were developing. Soon, I thought I might be able to work on such things!
Stay tuned for Part 4, wherein Bast and I run headlong (literally) into some issues.
|"Well, gee Austen. That's some ominous foreshadowing."|
For past editions of The Training Progression of Bast, check out these links:
Part 1: Lunging
Part 2: The Early Rides
Part 2.5: The Early Rides Forgotten Video Clips