Amber – the horse that will teach you softness

28 Mar

Last night, I headed out to TB’s after work for a riding double header. In addition to riding Quinn, I also tried out a former off-the-track-TB mare called Amber. The story on Amber is that she was retired from the track and purchased by a very novice rider who subsequently found her more than he could handle. TB got her because a friend of a friend of a friend (etc.) was told that this guy had had enough and was shipping her for meat that week. TB picked her and her buddy up that afternoon. I’m not sure how long the former owner had Amber for, but apparently it was a sufficient amount of time for him to completely ruin her mouth and make her extremely worried/nervous during riding. She is a very sensitive soul and is going to be a horse that will teach me (and any others who ride her) quite a bit about riding and softness.

Her ground manners are impeccable, and based on her behaviour when I tacked her up, I was shocked at the different horse she became when I got on. I felt quite relaxed about the whole process, especially because TB was going to give me a lesson, but I realized that Amber did not feel quite so at ease with me. She was pooping up a storm, probably went about 4 times in an hour, she was clearly nervous about this new person sitting on her back and asking that she do things. I felt bad for her that I was taking her out of her comfort zone, so I tried to be as quiet as possible and gave her lots of praise and scratches which she seemed to appreciate. TB explained that this mare will make me understand what it truly means to have soft “requesting” hands. I thought I knew what this meant, but this mare has confirmed that I have some work to do. I need to focus more on keeping my outside rein consistent and giving the horse something to move into, while at the same time massaging with my inside rein and releasing when I get flexion. These are not new concepts to me, but schooling these concepts on these rescue horses is quite different than schooling them on Corona. With A LOT of coaching and demos from TB, I was getting somewhere by the end of the session and I got some really nice long-and-low and relaxation. The other teaching method of this mare is that she is extremely sensitive to the leg…not that she will take off on you, but she kicks if you use too much! I didn’t think I used too much leg, but I think the trick here is that this horse needs more seat and rein aids, as opposed to leg aids at the moment. It reinforces the need for me to secure my leg position as I mentioned in my blog about my first lesson with TB. I really enjoyed riding Amber and am pretty darn excited to continue to work with her. I apologized profusely to Amber at the end of our lesson in hopes that I hadn’t worsened her issues, but she seemed ok with me J Also, TB got on her for 5 mins to demonstrate some things to me which was incredibly helpful. I also was grateful that Amber’s session ended on a really good note as TB is an excellent rider and clearly Amber appreciated it.

Next up was The Mighty Quinn (which I have learned is now his full name; I like it but I was gunning for Quinnie McWhinnie as I think it suits him although perhaps doesn’t exude the same tone as “mighty”). I continued where I had left off on the weekend, with lots of practice at standing still for more than 5 seconds at a time. Mounting was even better than our previous session, instead of doing 10 steps of moonwalk, there were only about 2! On the negative side, he refused to stand at the mounting block for more than 10 seconds once I was on. Onwards and upwards however; I took the 10 seconds a couple of times and then asked him to move forward on my terms. I practiced what I had just learned on Amber and Quinn seemed to respond really well to it as well. He isn’t as sensitive as Amber so was definitely more forgiving. I’ve noticed a bit difference since our first ride together, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are both getting used to each other, but things are definitely moving in a positive direction. I wish I could afford more than one horse, whoever eventually gets this guy is going to be really fortunate.

With the long Easter weekend starting tomorrow, I’m looking forward to the 4 days of horsey times ahead. I’m excited to see Corona and continue on our “Road to Respect” and I’m planning on getting in a ride on each of Amber and Quinn as well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things are drama-free as it would be wonderful to just relax and enjoy the journey(s)!

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