Since my last update on Curly, he has become a force to be reckoned with as a competitive warhorse in the medieval equestrian games we take part in regularly. Along with his owner, he has been used by my wife and one of my students as their mount. Because of this increase in use, I have put Curly into my training rotation and applied the classical horse training method I employ with Orion, Jupiter, Commander, etc.
In the past I was content to just help Raina gain better control over her horse, but in the last few months I decided to see how Curly would take to a more focused, structured training form. To this end, I started working with him in the round pen on the lunging caveson to work on his habit of hollowing out his back and counter bending while turning at the trot and canter. These behaviors cause a multitude of problems for him as far as balance and collection are concerned, not to mention making the ride less than comfortable for the rider. Helping him to find the correct bend to his body, while stepping under himself more with his hind end, has done wonders for his balance and conformation as his muscles have developed differently with the difference in how they are being used. He doesn’t even look like the same horse now.
In the saddle, the focus has been on keeping his frame together and helping him to balance and collect with the added weight of the rider to contend with. This has proven a bit of a challenge as Curly has an interesting habit of falling back on old patterns of behavior when left to his own devices. If the rider relaxes for even a few moments and allows him to start making decisions, the result, as often as not, is a reversion to old, bad habits. However, as long as the rider maintains an independent seat, strong core, consistent leg pressure and soft, elastic contact through the reins, the result is very precise control of a collected, wonderfully athletic mount.
Simply put, Curly is much happier when he has a rider who supports his frame and encourages proper collection and movement. Like most horses, he instinctively tests his rider, even though he is not very happy when a rider fails the test and allows him to make choices, which he invariably gets wrong.
It is my intent to keep him in the training rotation as long as he remains at our disposal as a warhorse. I am willing to bet that he will end up as excellent a mount for such activities and any we have yet had the pleasure of working with.