The First Session
Getting started. The day I chose to get started in my training program with Piper, the winds were blowing from the west, gusting over 25 mph. Now, I have nothing against wind. But the sounds it can create when slamming into the 170 foot long west facing wall of the indoor arena are pretty impressive. And when the wind causes the big doors on the south side to flex and swing a little bit, it adds to the overall ambience.
Piper does not like these things. And, since he was already feeling a bit on his toes from not being ridden in a few weeks, he spooked a couple times, and even kicked out at the door when it flexed inwards while we were trotting by... even though we were a good 20 feet away from it.
But, otherwise, the first session was fairly good. We reconnected a little. We walked around. Trotted. Did a bit of leg yielding in the walk. And we stopped and listened to the wind... during which I tried to comfort Piper and tell him he was safe.
"Here, Piper. Have a mint. Everything is okay. Try to relax."
Piper is not the bravest horse I know. For example, he is the only horse in the barn who won't eat during heavy rainstorms. He stands wide eyed listening to the deafening noise of the rain pounding on the metal roof. He wants pats and comforting. And often gets it.
So, our first 20 minute session was a little bit of a test, but a chance to reconnect.
The Second Session
That evening, the winds died down after the sun had set. So, I saddled Piper and rode him a second time. This time, he was much more attentive, interested in work, and happy.
Again, we walked and trotted, then moved on to leg yielding and shoulder-in positioning.
Moving away from pressure is something I teach horses as soon as possible. It starts with the ground work. Preferably right after birth. Both of my 2 year olds know the aid to move over. They know the words "move over" and know the touch of a hand (or the occasional pointed finger when needed) where my leg will one day rest when I ride them. Leg yield comes easily to horses trained this way and helps facilitate the lateral work, bending, and suppleness early on. All good things for the dressage horse.
So, that evening, Piper worked nice and quietly. Politely & happily. And, as done in the morning, we only worked for 20 minutes. Long enough to do just a little work, avoid sweating up, enjoy a few mints, and keep it all stress free.
Might not sound like much "training" going on, but with Piper Warrior, whose name is bigger than his bravery, 40 minutes of TLC from a rider on his back is an investment in the work sessions to come.