Yesterday the weather forecast was a tad bit off. I know, how could that happen? As a result I was greeted by an absolutely gorgeous day of sunshine, with a temperature in the mid 50s and a light breeze. In other words, perfect riding weather.
I got Bellatrix out as the third horse of the day and as such didn’t feel I really had time to work her on the ground and in the saddle as well, so I just took her blanket off and brought her into the round pen for a bit.
I guess I should have guessed it was going to be a good day as she walked right up to me in the pasture, while I was carrying her halter. She sometimes takes that as an invitation to play “Chase me” around a half-acre of hillside, but not this time.
She stood statue still as I took her blanket off, with that great “Friesian” look in her eye. Some of you may know it. It is a look of total calm and deep wisdom that the breed can manage. Sometimes is is somewhat undeserved, as Bella is too young to be able to call wise, but horses of Friesian blood often seem to have the “old soul” thing going for them and yesterday was Bella’s day for it.
I decided to free lunge her for a few minutes. I do this to get a chance to look for any lameness or pasture injury and to give the horse a chance to kick up their heels and romp or roll, if they want to. Bella did a few turns around the pen very quietly then came right to me when I stopped pushing her. She just put her forehead against my chest a blew a quiet relaxing breath.
I then put the lunging caveson on her. This can be tricky to do sometimes if the horse isn’t held in some way, by a rope or such. They tend to duck their head away and walk off when you try to place all this leather with rings on their faces. She just stood there calmly while I fumbled with buckles and straps and when I finally got it all secured and clipped the lunge line on, she was already moving off into a small circle at the walk.
By the time we had finished the short line session, she had walked, trotted and cantered on a three foot line, while staying bent, both laterally and at the pole through it all with no contact to speak of on the line. Just to be clear, that is cantering in less than a ten meter circle around me, properly bent, upright and balance if a wonderfully soft, collected canter. For those who may not know, this NOT an easy thing for horse to do most of the time, a young horse particularly and it takes both a natural ability and proper conditioning for a horse to be able to do it properly.
After I finished lunging her, I removed the lunge line and clipped a set of light reins to the outer rings on the caveson and climbed up on her bareback. We rode around the pen for about 30 minutes, turning this way and that, purely off the leg, backing, doing haunch and forehand turns and even side-passing a few steps each way. All this with no saddle or bit of any kind. She began walking when I shifted my pelvis forward and stopped walking when I shifted it back, maintaining an even pace when I stayed in the middle. By the end she was turning left and right when I looked in either direction with no leg contact to support the request.
When it was all over, I put her blanket back on and lead her back to the pasture, where she tried to come back out when I let her go. I guess she was not ready to stop the day’s work, but my time was short and I needed still to feed.
It may not sound like any sort of huge deal, all these things we did in this short session but there are MANY “fully trained” horses with more years of life experience that I would not have had such a good session with. I was very proud of our girl. She made me feel like quite the horseman for a time and that is a wonderful gift to receive.