As you can probably tell from this blog, I haven’t ridden Moe very frequently in the last six or seven years. When I lived in Kansas, I couldn’t afford to board him, so he lived in Tennessee with my dad (where all he did was eat donuts, apparently). I moved him to Oklahoma few years ago, when I already had my hands full with Gina and Colter. Since then, I have ridden him for fun on and off. For the last year, he’s been used primarily as a lesson horse at the dressage barn where I board. I get a small discount on my board, Moe gets ridden regularly by mostly-competent people, and the lesson students get a reasonably easy to ride very sound horse. Everyone wins!
Now that we’re signed up for a show, I thought I should probably, you know, ride him a few times before trotting down centerline or leaving the start box.
We had a dressage school on Monday, where Moe was poky at the walk and trot, and braced and cranky at the canter. He spent the first few minutes of the canter set against my hand, trying very hard to snatch the bit in his teeth and gallop around like a deranged giraffe. Once we got through that, he was pretty good. I don’t think the test will be anything to write home about, but I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll score in the high 30s.
This morning, I dragged out every jump in the barn, plus some cavaletti blocks, plus some barrels and set up a whopping five jump course: a 2′ warm up vertical, a 3-stride line, a 3′ oxer, and a 2’9 airy vertical. (Who am I kidding, all these jumps are airy because I own like 7 poles.) Moe had a minor issue with the barrels (just two, set end to end, and part of the line); I didn’t ride him decisively enough and he went around them once. (I’m pretty sure he thought they weren’t a jump.) We had zero issues after that. There was some minor bucking after a couple of jumps, but for the most part, Moe felt great.
All of the riding I’ve done on Gina has really improved both my eye and my behavior before fences. Moe and I are notorious for leaving long to jumps. I’ve only ever seen long spots on him, for whatever reason, and he’s more than happy to take them most of the time. Gina, on the other hand, has a much better feel for appropriate distances than I do. Moe and I had several very nice distances to the airy vertical and small vertical and managed to get through the line without taking the whole thing down.
As for my behavior before fences, that’s a more drastic improvement. Moe typically fixes onto a jump, then approaches it at approximately the speed of sound. I’ve always countered this by aggressive half-halts, which always led to downed rails. Gina sometimes rushes fences, but doesn’t tolerate picking. I can give her a gentle half-halt a few strides out, but she performs best when my hands and upper body are quiet. (Don’t they all?) Apparently, I’ve broken my half-halt habit, because I checked his speed about 3 strides out and then didn’t touch him. He was still a little rushed, but seemed to appreciate that I didn’t interfere. And we had zero knocked rails.
Moe has also improved, thanks to all the dressage work he’s been doing. Between fences, he’s much more balanced and his brakes are better.
He felt good- eager and quick, hunting the jumps, and mostly paying attention to me. I’m going to take him out for a hack in the field tomorrow, dressage again on Friday, and give him Saturday off. I’m starting to get sort of excited!