With horse training, it is so often the case of one step forward two steps back.
You may have read in my other blogs, that Boris has been challenging at times. I have to be honest the majority of Boris’s lack of progress is my lack of giving him the time required for consistent training. I mean, life is insanely busy, and although the horses maintenance and care want for nothing, finding the time to actually work him is a totally different ball game. But do you know when there is that niggling feeling that something isn’t right that you just can’t shake? Well, it’s also that.
Realistically, Boris hasn’t done anything overly drastic in the whole training process. He can be a bit stubborn and sometimes a bit strong-willed, but I’ve found that generally when he understands a task, he is happy to do it. Lately however, there has been a gut feeling that there was something coming. I couldn’t put my finger on it because he is very calm at doing what I ask.
He is not at all phased by the cart being behind him, not at all phased by traffic coming towards him. He is observant, but calm about outside influences and is usually very pleasant as long as he wants to comply.
If Boris gets a bee in his bonnet about something, he may just stand and look for a while, but his biggest vice is that he will just turn around and go home. He doesn’t even go home fast, he just turns and marches home. Under saddle, it isn’t an issue at all. Yes he will try it, but when in the saddle you’ve got all the tools you need to deal with it. Simply put your legs on, and block his turn, he realises it’s not an option, so you can carry on. He is absolutely beautiful to ride!
In cart however, there are much more limited tools available. You have voice and you have reins. Yes, you have a whip, but that is no comparison to legs.
I didn’t put much weight on it at the time, but Boris started this annoying thing, where if he didn’t want to continue up the road he would simply turn around. We would then turn back and continue up the road, no harm done. Unfortunately by allowing this behaviour, it ingrained in Boris that he COULD. As he is very calm about everything that he does, it has simply been a matter of repositioning, re-posing the question and carrying on. I realise my mistake now, and have well and truly learned from it!
On this particular day I was feeling quite confident, as we’d had a pleasing session the day before. I put the chariot on him and headed out with a plan to do the Windmill block. Nothing significant, slightly further than we’d been in cart, but should have been quite easy, as we’ve ridden the windmill block numerous times. I was expecting a rather pleasant and rewarding session.
Boris had other plans. We headed out, and along the road. Boris got in his head that he didn’t want to, and headed for an open gate, to go back into the driveway. Unfortunately he didn’t allow for the width of the chariot behind him. He hit the gatepost with the chariot. At this point I kicked my son out of the cart and attempted to make Boris turn the other way, but Boris in pigheaded Boris mode ignored my request and went for the open the gate again. This made the chariot get caught on the gatepost, so he went with more force which resulted in the chariot rolling over.
We specifically designed this chariot with safety in mind, so I was thrown clear. Unable to keep hold of the reins, Boris headed back to the tie-up rail, but the shafts got caught up in a different gate. He continued to pull until the harness gave way, breaking him free from the chariot, and then he went for a leisurely stroll through the paddocks.
Unharmed, I reassured my screaming kid that all was okay, and went up to retrieve Boris, who was perfectly fine. Determined not to let him get out of work, I pulled the harness off, chucked a saddle on and took him up the road on my intended route. Boris was completely unfazed by all of the commotion and I had the best ride on him ever.
What is bothering me now where to go from here. If it were for my personal interest, I would definitely persist with him. Boris is very fun to ride. Problem is he is part of my herd, to be used in my business, and needs to be reliable pulling a carriage. Then there is also the floating thing….
My gut feeling is that he will grow out of his arrogance, and develop into the most amazing horse, both in cart and saddle. I’ve worked him in long reins, and towing a tyre since this commotion, and he was perfectly fine. I have no hesitations in connecting him back up to a cart (other than i don’t have one big enough right now) But how long do I persist? What if I put another 2 years of training into him, and he is still as unwilling to be a team player?
Often, I wish I had a crystal ball. It is possible that I wish for that now more than ever.