I realized today that I haven’t really blogged about one of my favourite things to talk about, Ridley. Ridley is a 10 year old 16.3-17.0 hh (just try to measure him…) Oldenburg gelding with a very high opinion of himself.
I suspect that he would have a completely different take about what I tell you, but that’s because he doesn’t like me to give away his secrets. The biggest “secret” is that he is a giant toddler and angsty teenager combined and stuffed into a horse. Just imagine: a 1000+ pound animal that likes to put everything into his mouth first and just “knows” exactly what he should be doing, so why are you giving him instructions anyway?
I truly feel that he has a motto: spook first, ask questions later.
Don’t get me wrong, for the non-horsenuts out there, this is a typical state of being for a horse as the are a fight or flight animal, heavy on the flight. Ridley just tends to be a little more… dramatic about it?
Ridley has garnered a bit of a reputation in the 5 years that I have been owned by him. He can be a difficult horse to handle from the ground. Like most animals, he can (and does) read your body language. Like most children, he will test you in a passive-aggressive manner that will progress into a very active resistance if you fail his smaller tests. For the average non-horsey person, this is not the horse for you to handle. For the knowledgeable equestrian, there isn’t really an issue. It’s the in between where we get into trouble! Isn’t it a good thing he’s cute?
Knowing that he needs to be handled by all sorts of people in his lifetime, I started working with Tom Shields of Iron Horse Equestrian Centre last year. He specializes in “problem” horses although it made me immensely happy when he told me that Ridley is not really a problem horse, he is just very very detailed about body language.
This has started a different approach to training. I moved from a hunter-jumper show barn a couple months before getting married last year. There is no program, so for me, it has been a chance to explore at our own pace… which for me has been quite slow lately! It has been very educational and its truly amazing to see how he reacts to the slightest change in my posture. I just need to remind myself to do 8 different things at a time from the ground as well as on the horse.
In my opinion, Ridley makes me work harder for some of the things I want him to do, but he is also more forgiving and tests me less than others – I think that means I pass enough of the little ones! When Tom works with him, he eventually melts into a puppy dog state, but it takes a bit of a trip each session to get there. He knows that Tom knows how to “play the game” so I think he tests him a bit more frequently, but will give in a bit easier.
We work on scary object sessions, “desensitizing” (I really don’t like that word but I can’t for the life of me come up with a better one) sessions, lunge line work (if he is listening, he will halt based on body language alone – crazy!) and under saddle work. I never really know what we are going to work on until Tom shows up, but usually Ridley gives me some inspiration while I get him ready!
So you must be asking, why do I put up with all of this? Why not get an easier horse, its supposed to be relaxing and fun, right? I mean, he is a fun horse to ride and super athletic. I am ashamed to admit, that I almost gave up on him. He was for sale last year because I thought that he really didn’t want to connect and work with me. Boy was I wrong!
The adventure is definitely not over, but I know now that I wouldn’t want it to be.