So, a lot has been going on lately! It's been forever since I posted, but I'll just get to the fun stuff. So, I have been looking around for a horse and just searching through ads to get an idea of what the market is like, contacting sales barns, etc. Wyatt's mom has also been helping me look. We decided to take a day to go up to Fresno to look around at some of the horses up there. Typically you get a pretty good bargain up there for some reason, so I figured that was a good place to start. She sent me probably 10 links to ads and I got a little overwhelmed, but I contacted everyone at the last minute since we planned not too far ahead of time, and only 3 people got back to me. Wyatt's mom REALLY liked this 4 yr old appendix that she found. For some reason he just struck her, kinda like Wyatt struck her way back when. I wasn't impressed, I'd seen much flashier, better trained, etc, but since we were going to be there, we went to see him. Lets just say he made a much better impression in person! He was pretty well started western pleasure, so the lady who showed him to us was making him do all these funky things, basically crawl around with his nose on the ground. But, you could definitely tell his brain was there. We were super mean and crinkled things in our pockets, and stomped on tarps/bags outside the arena 'by accident' right as they went past to see what he would do, all with no reaction.
So I hopped on. He's 99% 'whoa' which is really weird for me, but such a refreshing change. At first it took me everything I had to get him to trot after his owner had ridden in western spurs, but we got there, and then got his trot moving. If you don't constantly fiddle with his mouth then he doesn't put it on the ground, and trots around in a nice willing place. When you fiddle a bit, he gives a bit, which was nice! His canter transition involved him tossing his head to jump into it, but his canter itself was nice, slow, and rhythmic. Ok, maybe a little too slow ;) but we can work with that. Wyatt's mom gives him a couple of things to gawk at, like her jumping up and down by the rail with her arms flailing over her head, and he just kinda looked at her like she was crazy, and kept on going. He was such a good boy :) and such a confidence booster because he really just wants to listen to you. So I figured out how to bring him home.
The first day on the property I let him settle in for a few hours, and then tried to push his buttons. I lunged him, where he galloped and whinnied for a few minutes, and then decided that was way too much work and chilled out, and then got on in the big arena. He walked and trotted poles, walk trot canter both directions, only slightly looked at all the scary stuff that Bijou usually fixates on for the whole ride, and I even popped him over all the crossrails in the arena, which he 'jumped' or more like excitedly trotted over. Then I took him out into the x-country/dressage field which is full of scary obstacles and rustling squirrels etc. He got a little worried about a pile of jumps which was rustling with squirrels, and then did a four feet splay spook. That was it. We walked around the pastures and he got run up on by the mares which he thought was exciting, but all he did was jig for maybe 3 steps. He passed all my tests with flying colors, especially since he's 4!
Since then we've settled into a routine. I turn him out with his buddies (working on the bolting away from me the second the halter's off), where he alternates between scratching shoulders with his friend Max, and trotting around whinnying at everyone. Then I come out in the late afternoon, and as soon as he recognizes me, he walks right up to the gate and waits to be haltered. When he's turned out he doesn't need lunging before riding. Even though he's pretty distracted by everyone/everything on the ground, he gets right to business once under saddle. It takes minimal effort to gain his attention, a mini cluck, or just a squeeze on the inside rein.
As far as retraining him, he's been a champ, if not a bit confused. His whole life everyone's been telling him to slow down, and now I want him to go faster?? What is this about?! Mostly he tries to canter when I'm asking for more trot, but we've been working on doing collected trot on the short side, and extended trot on the long side. It took him about two times around to figure out the pattern (good memorization will be awesome for dressage tests!!) and then we worked on making sure his hind end stayed engaged and just tweaked things. A dressage whip has been invaluable for teaching him to lighten up for my leg and he responds perfectly to it. Right now our rides are still not super polished. I'm still figuring out how I fit on him and where I need to be in order to be most effective. He's a super smart kid, figuring out turns on the forehand, already knew turns on the haunches. And the best part is, on days when I'm beat from work I can safely hop on in just a halter and canter my heart out. That's when his western pleasure jog comes in handy too :) Oh, can you tell where the name came from? Look at those ears!
Bijou's still mine for the time being, and doing excellently, but getting two horses out is hard!! I'll update about her soon too, but that's enough for now :)