Today when I got to the barn I put my saddle and pad in the arena near where I’ve been working on teaching Steen to stand, telling myself that whether or not I used them today, he needed to get used to having them around. Then I went out to the pasture to get my horse. He was off on the other side of the field again, but when I looked up from unlatching the gate I saw him and a number of other horses were moving towards me. Then the rest of the herd started in my direction as well, and then one who had almost gotten left behind started trotting after the rest, which made the ones in front start to lope and the next thing I knew the entire herd came stampeding to the gate, Steen among them. So, I’m not sure if Steen initiated the movement or not, but it was nice not to have to go get him.
I put Steen’s halter on and led him to the barn. He only paused once in the “problem” grassy section, but a stern glance from me got him moving again.
In the barn, he was a doll. He stood quietly while I groomed him thoroughly, and behaved beautifully in our forays around the arena at both the walk and the trot. After a while I thought, “Well, I guess I’ll see how he reacts to the pad.” So, I pulled it off the rail and walked towards him. He stepped back. I let him sniff it. He seemed to relax. I rubbed it all over his neck and back. When I got to his hindquarters, he shied away from me. I went back to his head and let him sniff the pad again, and he seemed alright with that, so I rubbed him a bit more, put the pad down, and we did a few more turns around the arena on foot until he looked totally relaxed again. Then I came back to the rail and reintroduced the pad.
I did this a couple more times until the pad didn’t illicit any reaction from him, even when I put it on his head. I put it on his back and left it there. Then I picked up the saddle. Again, he looked at it and took one step back. I offered him a sniff, but he wasn’t interested. He just stood in a stoic attitude. I put the saddle on the ground under his nose. He ignored it. I tapped on the saddle with my fingers. No reaction. I squatted down next to the saddle and fiddled with it noisily. Still nothing.
So, I picked up the saddle and put it on his back. He didn’t react in any way while I did up the cinch loosely. Then we went around the arena on foot again.
When we got back, I tightened up the cinch and put his bridle on. I noticed the headstall (which his previous owner gave me) was adjusted to be much too short for him, so I fixed that problem and hopped onto his back. He stood still and let me do this.
What followed was a very short but encouraging ride. He’s clearly been allowed to get away with not stopping when he’s asked to. I’m thinking the head tossing problem his previous owner warned me about (and I noticed the first time I asked him to slow down) is probably from too much yanking on the mouth when he refuses to stop on top of a bit already irritating to him due to the tightness of the headstall. So, I starting teaching him to stop using sideways tension instead of backwards tension. As soon as I made this change, the head-tossing disappeared.
After a few turns around the arena with stops and gos at the walk I decided not to push my luck and quit while I was ahead. I hopped off. He seemed very relaxed as I untacked him, and he led well back to the pasture. I put my things away and headed home.
Now, I am childishly tickled by the fact that I can say, “I rode my horse today.” I haven’t been able to make that statement since before I was a legal adult.