Day Five at Bits & Bytes Farm was busy for Reign Day. It was time to do my second ride on him. He got his new steel shoes in the morning and had the afternoon to get used to them in his paddock. Now it was time to ride.
I am using Bounced’s former bridle with a Happy Mouth double jointed bit that has a roller in the middle. We wrap it with Sealtex because the horses chew on the Happy Mouth and the plastic can get sharp edges. I may experiment with other bits. This one was handy and a gentle bit. Most horses at the race track race in a ‘D’ ring snaffle. There are all kinds of bits you can try on a horse but no bit will control a horse that does not want to be controlled. It is better to use a kind bit and train the horse to be ridden off your seat. With most Thoroughbreds, I can slow them down by sitting up and doing a half halt — right off-the-track! They will match the speed of your posting as well. Slow down your posting and they slow down.
So on this second ride on Reign Day, we continued working over a pole on the ground while I was on his back this time. It was interesting that he did not try to jump the pole today. He quietly trotted over the pole. He remembered that the pole did not eat him so there was no need to jump over it. Smart horse. We also worked on bending and changing direction. I carried a dressage whip to tap him on the shoulder or side to help him bend. He did not overreact to the whip. He would turn for me as I turned my hips, applied leg and looked in the direction I wanted him to move. Another myth about Thoroughbreds off-the-track is blown away. OTTBs do not over react to your legs being applied. They are ridden at the track by heavy exercise riders who ride with longer stirrups than a jockey who is racing.
Don’t get on your horse and just ride round and round the arena mindlessly. The horse will tune out and get bored. When you are riding, you should be training. If you don’t have a plan, you may be untraining the horse. I try to do something different every six strides to keep it interesting. That can be lengthening or shortening the stride, changing direction or changing the gait. Lots of transitions keep the horse listening to you. Ride off the rail and do serpentines and circles making sure the horse bends his body around your leg and uses his back end as well. Don’t just pull a horse around a circle on the inside rein – instead use the inside leg to drive him into a supporting outside rein. Soften the inside rein and ask him to drop his head down.
Reign Day is a delight to ride and the shoeing made him an even better mover. It is still cold and windy and he was perfectly well behaved. . . so well behaved I took him down the lane towards the woods on a mini trail ride. He did great for being all alone. He got just so far away from the arena and he wanted to go back so we stood for awhile and then turned back and walked to the arena stopping a few times along the way so that he did not get the idea that he could rush back towards the barn. He stood quietly when I got on and also when I got off. This is one smart horse. He is really fun to train.