Today, I rode Oliver for the first time since the test ride at their old home. My impression of Oliver that first day was that he was pretty darn solid, and that has been borne out by what we’ve seen since we got him down to our barn.
Oliver is a pretty interesting horse. (I know, I know. Aren’t they all?) Although the first day Brian worked with him he was super pushy and needed a lot of reminding to stay out of your space, once the lesson clicked, it has stayed put. The last few days he’s been quieter during tacking and grooming than Aiden (who has a tendency to strain around a little try keep an eye on what’s happening around him). Oliver is happy to chill. He’s not dead to his environment, he’s just relaxed.
My groundwork with Oliver didn’t feel like work at all. He was following a feel, stepping in both directions, disengaging, backing, all of it off light asks with the air of an old pro. When I got on, he didn’t move his feet until I asked him to (something we’re still working on with Aiden).
Oliver is a smooth ride. He knows how to move off your leg, though upwards transitions can be sluggish. Like Aiden, his biggest hang-up is his mouth. He is more reactive to bit pressure than any horse I’ve ever ridden. At first, we really had to puzzle out how to help him with this. His first rides, Brian would pick up the teeniest little amount of pressure (literally there was still drooping slack in the reins) and Oliver would just fly backwards. Any attempt to encourage him forward with the leg would get him dancing or going back faster. We decided to just wait it out — pick up the lightest of light pressure and wait for him to try to hold still and break at the poll.
The first time took a minute, but he got it. Since then, Brian’s been building on the lesson each ride. By the time I got on today, he only did the backing thing a few times. It was always when I asked for something, he gave me a try that wasn’t what I was looking for, and then got frustrated when he didn’t get the release. He’d default to flying backwards. When this happened I’d just wait for him to find a way to stop and get soft, and we’d start over.
One thing that seems to be difficult for Oliver is disengaging the hind. He really wants to rock forward when you ask him to do this, and in spite of his ultra-reactivate response to the bit when you engage it on him, when he decides to initiate contact, he comes onto your hands pretty hard. He will give you a nice soft flex when you pick up one hand, but when you ask him to step under, he will dive forward and try to push through the bit. I worked on bringing the foot in as little as possible and seeing how little I could do to get him to try stepping under. Eventually, we managed a few steps without the forward lean, but it’s not consistent yet.
We measured Oliver as well. He’s just over 15 hands. He’s lost a little weight, too, which in his case is ok. Obviously we will make sure the trend does not to continue, but he had a little to spare. 🙂
Horseback Hours YTD: 44:35