Yesterday I brought Ben along for a lesson with my old trainer. She wanted to ride him this time. The arena we used belongs to a friend whose mare and yearling were running in the paddock beside, tantalising poor Ben who was getting no chance to express himself whilst being ridden.
She started with a lot of work in walk. Ben has a short stride and she worked to get him to lengthen his stride and maintain a rhythm. Ben worked. Being asked to go forward from the leg as never before he worked up a sweat in walk in his emerging winter coat. Lots of firmness, lots of praise. When he did lengthen he could maintain it for only a few strides before looking to jog.
Of course, she had an opinion on going barefoot. “You want my honest opinion?” I didn’t, but I was going to get it anyway. “I think you’re mad.” In trot, Ben was lame. She asked me to sit up to see if it felt different to normal. Definitely lame. (How he sprang forward from the lightest touch of my leg – a good lesson for me!) Of course there is the possibility of being bruised, although no stone bruise was evident, but it felt as if it were coming from his right hip, through his left shoulder. I will give him a couple of days, if he is still lame in trot I will return to the craniosacral therapist who treated him before. She had identified an old injury to his right hip.
My trainer also felt that the kind of training she would do would not be right for Ben. She thought that at his age (13 approx), with no flatwork training behind him, and given his type, it would be too much to ask. Lameness in trot aside, she found him very stiff. Which he is. I will need to find another way to help him here. I see her point and in a way I am relieved as I knew Ben would not enjoy these lessons.
Lesson over, Ben was released for a lovely sandy roll before going over to vent his feelings and assert his dominance on the mare and yearling. My trainer was comical in her astonishment. “But I thought butter wouldn’t melt” she said as we heard loud squeals and watched Ben grow in size as he struck out with his forelegs.
But here’s the thing: watching her riding Ben, I seemed to see him through her eyes, a stiff, non-cooperative, butty little cob with nothing special about him. “He will be fine for hacking, le trec and your daughter can ride him. Would you not get yourself another horse so you can do flatwork and some riding club competitions?”
I won’t, but back home I still saw him through her eyes and I think he knew it, or else he decided that that lesson was definitely bad news, for he wanted nothing to do with me, herding Rosie out of the way when I sat down in the paddock.