That’s a lie. They probably don’t really call me anything, and I don’t even know who “they” is. But they should call me Dolphin Rider, because that’s basically my profession these days.
Henry has been back in work for about 4 weeks now. I’ve started him back really slowly, gradually building up the work load. We started doing mostly walk with some trots, incrementally lengthening the time and adding more sets, then tossed in a few hill repeats, and last week we started adding lateral work, more circles, and cantering.
You know who’s been really excited about cantering?
He’s lost a lot of strength during all his down time, especially in his topline, so I’ve been riding him in his bitless bridle. He looooves to stretch in that thing, and it’s easier to ride him longer and lower in that, which is where I want him right now. He’s kind of learned that that’s his “stretchy work” bridle, and his dressage bridle is his “up in the contact like a proper dressage horse bridle”. I also like riding him in the bitless when I’m really trying to tune him more to leg and seat. Since he’s just coming back, is rusty, and we aren’t doing anything remotely earth-shattering, I’ve taken the easier and more casual route with the bitless. The one downside of that bridle? When he’s feeling particularly feisty he loves to plant his nose between his knees and crowhop to his hearts content, like he’s trying out for the damn rodeo.
I have talked about this before, but he sucks at bucking. Like most of the time there’s way more head flailing than there are hind feet leaving the ground, much less getting very high in the air. I love him dearly but he legit sucks at it. He remains blissfully unaware of that fact, though, and absolutely loves trying. I find this to be endlessly amusing, and he always seems so damn pleased with himself, so I just ride it out, laugh at him, let him play a bit, and then leg him on. Even on his friskiest days he’s good for maybe 15-30 seconds of what I have come to call dolphining before he levels out and settles into a normal canter. He rarely does it when he’s in regular work, but if he’s had some time off or it’s particularly cold/windy or we’re doing something he deems “exciting”… game on.
Those first few days of cantering again, though… boy. I don’t think he took one single step of normal canter. I was off to the world’s least impressive rodeo, and he morphed into Flipper.
At one point he even squealed. He legit thought that he was the most impressively naughty bucking bronco in the whole world, while I was just trying not to laugh too hard.
This went on for the entire first week of canter work. By ride 3 of that week I was getting a few actual canter steps after a lap or two of dolphining. On ride 4 it was hot so he tucked his freak flag in and was normal that day, then the next ride it was windy and out it came again. He definitely is getting less and less enthusiastic about it as we ease back into a regular schedule, but sometimes he just can’t help himself. Like when we’re cantering uphill. Or like when we cantered with Bobby the other day, and Bobby peeked over his shoulder at us only to find Henry bouncing around like an idiot behind him. He found that to be quite entertaining.
Henry is moving back into his real bridle next week, and we’re going to start adding poles into the mix, so he’ll probably be really bummed about that. He’s enjoyed his time as a completely lawless hooligan, leaping and bouncing around all over the place. It would break his naughty little heart to know this, but I kinda like it when he feels fresh enough to try to play a little like that. Maybe I’m weird but coming from him, I find it endearing. He’s coming up on 13 and shows no signs of maturing out of it anytime soon. Never change, Henny, never change.