Are not fully installed yet.
Since my last post I have ridden about 3 times. Each time is a bit better than the one before.
Do you know what the really hard part is? It's not that the brakes and steering are still a bit unreliable (more on that later), nor that his rhythm is still sketchy. It's that I have to keep foremost in my brain is that whenever it goes wrong it's because he has no idea what to do. He's not being disobedient he just doesn't know. And he doesn't know what he doesn't know.
I, however, am supposed to know. So whenever it goes not-quite-according-to-plan I have to stop and think how I can help him to understand what I want. Easier said than done. However, I made the choice to buy a baby and bring him along myself. So if things are a bit difficult at times I have to appreciate that I am being hoisted by my own petard (I've been dying to use this phrase in the blog- it's one of my favourite phrases). If your original background is with schooling horses, as mine is, then you learn that school horses have a whole bunch of evasions that they've learned over the years to use on people. However, that same behaviour by Steele is not a deliberate evasion- it's not like he's on the internet doing google searches on 'how to stop my servant from getting above her station and actually trying to sit on my back". At least I don't think he is. Uh oh.
Earlier this week when I first mounted Steele he walked off before I was fully in the saddle. I got on more hastily than I planned and brought him to a halt. I then dismounted and returned to the mounting where we practiced standing-still-while-your-human-gets-on. He didn't walk away to be bad. He probably was unbalanced and that was his response. There was no point in getting annoyed- I just need to fix it. It hasn't appeared since.
The brakes are pretty good. He usually stops right away when I ask. I have to be ready because sometimes he's a bit abrupt. He puts the brakes on at times when I don't think I want it. Like when I say 'good boy'. Oops. I had to teach him that 'good boy' did not equal "time for a break". Today was funny. I rode him early this morning but it was still pretty warm (for the record 'pretty warm" here means in the 70's. At least this time of year). I always do ground work so by the time I was riding he was probably feeling the heat and thinking more about napping. So he started stopping. And then he began to not move forward. I had to use a fair amount of leg to get him moving again. After two episodes I had to think about what was going on. I decided that there were two things happening:
1. he had had enough of this game for today.
2. the past few rides I've been so concerned about making sure that I had control that I was praising for 'whoa' but not for 'go'.
At one point he stopped right by the gate.
"see I whoaed. Awesome. And we're by the gate. Double awesome. Let's go back to the barn"
So I had to change what I was doing. Everytime he went forward I praised him and gave him a pat. I could see him thinking about this. I couldn't dismount until I was sure that he understand that I wanted to things from him: To stop when I ask and to go when I ask. When he was nice and responsive a few times I walked us as far away from the gate as we could go, asked him to whoa and dismounted right away.
I'm counting that as a win.
I'll save the steering topic for another post.