End of Summer Update – Curly

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.

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Year Wrap-up Curly

While Curly is not technically in training with me, he is boarded on the property and I have ridden him several times and advised Raina on his training as a warhorse of the last year. He and Raina both have made good headway this year, making ever better showings at each event the two of them competed in.

Now that she has been working on his balance and carriage as well as improving her own seat to help him, I have seen them become a more relaxed team; her confident and steady, he better balanced and more collected. As her confidence has increased, their mutual excitement in competition decreased, they have really begun to look and perform like warhorse and mounted warrior.

Next year I expect them to give Orion and me a run for our money.

Ready to Compete

For the several days I have put the other horses on hold to tune Orion and Curly up for a competition in Newberg, OR this upcoming weekend. It will be the first and last time I get to compete in Medieval Gaming this season.

While I did get to ride at my own even in April, I was not able to compete and aside from that, the only riding I have done outside of training was the demos we put on at the Rogue Renaissance Fantasy Faire and the County Fair in Grants Pass. While practices and Demos are fun, I really wanted to get a chance to show riders who do the same sort of stuff, but live outside my area, just how far Orion has come.

Nancy, Raina and I are going to take Curly and Orion up, saving room in the trailer to bring back Jupiter, a Lipizzan  gelding being sent down for some training.

For the last few days we have reminded the boys what it is like to take part in “Pig Sticking” and “Heads” as these are elements sure to be part of this weekend’s activities and something neither of them have practiced in some time. Curly has calmed down a great deal and is making the runs in a more controlled manner. At least he does as long as Raina can stay relaxed herself. It will be interesting to see how they do when actually in competition.

Orion was just amazing. He has always been great at “Pig Sticking”, but now he is also cantering the “Heads” runs, fully collected and relaxed, just as pretty as you could want. Again, this is in his home arena with only Curly there for competition, but I am really expecting great things from him this weekend.

I will give a full report when we get back.

Wish us all luck.