This past weekend two interesting things happened. The first was: Buckshot and I rode, with another horse and rider, down the scary road again, and had a good time. The day was sunny, with fluffy, friendly clouds in the sky, hot and humid. No rain in the forecast. Buckshot had somewhat lower energy on Saturday, but we warmed up in the arena just fine. After we were joined by my sister on her school horse Dusty, we headed down the farm road to the reining arena. Both horses were kind of slow going down the road, but at least it was a sunny and pretty day (instead of the cloudy, shadowy, gloomy day earlier). We had a good time doing work at the reining arena and started back toward the main barn. This was where I was worried if Buckshot would fear going back. But he did fine, I stayed relaxed and we walked right back without a problem. I was thrilled! I hope we have subdued the scary memory that occurred on the road when we were approached by strange people and big dogs, that gave Buckshot a huge fright!
The second interesting thing occurred on Sunday. Buckshot and I went to the reining trainer clinic. The day was beautiful – sunny, blue skies, less hot and much less humid – a perfect summer day. After doing the maneuvers and exercises the trainer instructed us in, he said to me that I had advanced beyond Buckshot. He said that maybe I was bored (with Buckshot) and maybe Buckshot was bored. He suggested that I ride one of the show horses occasionally. I thanked him for his comments, and took Buckshot to be untacked and rinsed.
I thought about what he had said on the ride back to the farm. I can always share my thoughts with the barn owner, and later, while feeding all of the farm’s horses, I shared my thoughts with her. Her response was enthusiastic so that made me feel good. Here is what I thought: How wonderful to have received such a big compliment about my riding skills! I didn’t know anyone had noticed that I had gotten better at riding, so it was wonderful to be complimented on it.
I know that Buckshot isn’t officially a trained reining horse, nor a show horse, nor do I want to or plan to compete in reining. But Buckshot is my horse, my wonderful, wonderful horse and he has taught me a lot in these past almost-five years. He is one of the reasons my skills have gotten better. He is an invaluable trail horse, and he is really a versatile horse as well. He works with me willingly in the arena, and on trail rides, and going to another farm for reining clinics. That is very versatile of him. And he is such a reliable, calm, trustworthy horse. I am extremely lucky to have him as my own horse. I love him to death. And he has a big motor. Many people don’t find such a valuable horse for years and years.
With Buckshot’s age (twenty five plus years) and my lack of interest/ money for competing, I haven’t pushed us too much in our reining maneuvers. And during the summer, rain and sometimes humidity have limited our time to ride and work hard. So I have gone a bit soft, understandably perhaps.
So perhaps both he and I can push ourselves more. We can do more! We can become better! (You can hear in all these thoughts that the option of getting another horse is not there. That is not an option for me, timewise or financially. I really enjoy Buckshot and want to ride him, not someone’s show horse. So Buckshot is my one and only horse. He and I are a good team. Period.)
But we can do more, and we can get better. While I drove home, lots of ideas floated through my mind, and I got them down on paper as soon as I got home. I will no doubt refine them, as these are my first thoughts, but here is what I wrote.
Don’t break gait at the canter.
Develop two distinct speeds at the canter – fast and slow/moderate. Learn to successfully lope at both speeds.
Do full reining patterns impressively (without the spins, or the sliding stops).
Develop strength, stamina and control.
Techniques/ Helps to Achieve Goals-
Explore use of blunt spurs. Can my legs handle spurs? Unfortunately I move my lower legs a lot at the trot. I may not be ready for this.
Train Buckshot to know that cantering and rating the canter is fun, not work, and he can keep doing it. (So he doesn’t break gait and go into trot) This is a concept I got from Mugwump – need to read her techniques on this again.
Develop his stamina and strength. Mine also, by exercise.
Use hills to develop the above.
Canter for long periods of time. Where? Use the big reining arena, and when a bit more space is needed, ride on the grass perimeter.
Do a full reining pattern every day that I ride him.
Get all of the reining patterns.
Use western reins. They have a longer bite, and may help the next technique.
Neck rein him exclusively. Buckshot neck reins, but I learned English when I started riding, and so have stayed with English rein techniques and have only occasionally neck reined him. But when I do, I give a bit more rein, so it may help him keep going happily. Perhaps I can borrow some western reins from the BO to find out what kind I like.
To help Buckshot go happily down the road to the reining arena, bring treats with me and give him treats on the way. Wear gloves.
Ride him twice a day on Saturday and twice on Sunday. First session to do hill work on the trail, and build stamina at the reining arena. Second session to ride with others in class in arenas.
So that is my list. I’ll think through it some more but I think it is a good idea. For both him and I. I need some motivation and maybe what the trainer said will act as a motivation. The BO said she thought my goals of pushing ourselves more, and trying to work on the canter were good. She said Buckshot is very powerful physically, and he is willing. She thought this is a good perspective on the whole thing.
So I am more motivated right now. I hope that my future posts will be full of successes, but realistically, my motivation may flag at times. Have you had something like this happen with you and your horse – a turning point that helped you to move forward in new ways? And do you have any tips for helping a horse stay cantering? Thanks in advance!