The importance of a pre-ride check is that we don’t make assumptions about the horse’s mental preparedness for his job. Even if he was great the last time he was ridden, it’s important to check in with him and see how he’s feeling today. Nuri felt fresh and good last night in his groundwork. He was also responsive and connected after he blew off a little extra adrenaline, so I got on him. Pretty quickly I lost the nice connectivity I wanted… it was getting dark and he had a pretty strong preference for sticking close to the gate nearest the barn and the other horses. I was working on trot transitions under saddle, but his confidence was not strong enough to allow me to steer him away from his comfort zone near the gate. I could feel that if I tried to push him through that threshold he would “sull up” and maybe start to buck. Using one rein at a time I worked him in his comfort zone to free his feet alternating hind quarter yields and forward transitions into trot. When I felt him lose the feel that he was bracing against my ideas, I dismounted.
Game plan: I’d like him to have a reason to feel good about going forward in the trot, so I’ll set up the next ride so that he has another horse to follow in the trot. I also need him to feel a little more accepting of my leadership in the saddle, and submissive and trusting that my ideas are good for him. I can build that through some ground work on thresholds taking him away from the barn and the other horses gradually so that he can learn to find safety with me instead of other horses. I’m getting to understand his needs better with every interaction and know what to do to help him be successful! Such a fun and rewarding process… with every horse it is unique.