Warning: there is much gushing about my pony happening in this post so if you have a strong gag reflex or already rolling eyeballs you might want to back away now.
We had another dressage lesson on Tuesday night, and Henry was probably the best he’s ever been. I don’t know if it was a fluke or if things are just starting to click, but we had some honest to god throughness and connection. Pretty much the first time that’s happened. He leg yielded and shoulder in’d and turned on the forehand and lengthened. He did haunches out on a circle, leg yield to shoulder in, canter squares with leg yield, and stretchy trotted. In fact, in our first attempt at the ever elusive stretchy trot Trainer said “There he goes! Good boy!” and I said “SHHHH be quiet or you’ll scare it away!”. There were still some moments of stiffness and some slow or heavy transitions, but for the most part he was really fantastic. Every lesson has just gotten better and better.
After some canter leg yields, canter lengthenings, and transitions within the canter we took a walk break and chatted. Trainer was very complimentary of Henry’s canter work, saying that the quality and balance of his canter was very good, his lengthenings were naturally uphill, and the transitions within the gait were obviously easy for him. He said certain things that even much more advanced horses find difficult came naturally him. Then he called little ol’ Henry “quite talented”. Talented? This guy? At derpssage? I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew 3 sizes.
If you’d told me a year ago that a legit dressage trainer/rider would ever call this horse talented, I would have laughed in your face. In fact, I’d probably still be laughing. The word “fried” had been used to describe him when I bought him, and just getting to where I could put my leg on without an explosion or keep contact without him putting his nose to his chest has been a long difficult road. The fact that’s he’s moved past that now is, IMO, a testament to Henry and his kindness and his general good nature. He tries so hard and really wants to please, I think as long as he trusts his rider and feels like he’s being treated fairly he could be good at anything. Trainer agreed saying he seemed very willing, praised me for being a tactful rider and said I’d done a good job with him. Majorly proud horsemom moment. I appreciate him saying nice things about me as well but I’m not gonna lie, the compliments for Henry brought tears to my eyes. Of course I love him but I’m also extremely aware of his (and my) shortcomings, so the fact that someone whose opinion I greatly value and respect sees something special lurking in him does my heart good.
Henry has suddenly also decided that whips will not, in fact, kill him and are not, in fact, cause to become extremely belligerent. Last summer I tried carrying a whip for a month in a attempt to get him to calm down about them, and every ride he acted like I was going to kill him. He was completely incapable of relaxing as long as I had it in my hand so I eventually gave up. On Monday I carried a jumping bat for our informal bumming around pole work day and he didn’t even seem to notice. So in the dressage lesson I decided to push my luck and warm up with a dressage whip. Again, he gave no craps. I did eventually give it to Trainer once we started canter work, since that’s about the time when Henry can sometimes get a little overreactive/anticipatory, but it totally helped in the warm-up. I even lightly tapped him on the butt with it once in the first leg yield when he was slow off my leg and he had a totally appropriate, non-belligerent-meltdown response. He just went “Oh yeah, sorry” and moved away. Knock me over with a feather, he no longer thinks I’m going to eat him. I joke that I have finally just broken his spirit, but the fact that he’s now chill enough to move past whatever happened in his history to make him so tense and worried makes me proud all over again. The boy is a champ.
End gush. Sorry if I made you reach for your barf bags.