I prefer to spend my Sunday evenings at home, curled up on the couch watching Masterpiece on PBS. Since I got my second horse this past spring, Sunday's have not been days of rest. I usually teach a few lessons until about 2pm so that I can afford the second horse. So my personal barn time is later in the day on Sunday. That is, if I have nothing else scheduled. Much like Saturday nights, it's not uncommon to see me alone at the barn on a Sunday evening.
This past Sunday I went out after dinner. Not my dinner - on days that I ride, I eat after riding. Which is usually some time after 10pm.
No, I waited to head out until after the ponies should have finished their evening hay.
Cisco was quite quiet as I groomed and tacked him up. Again, I thought that I would try to get on him without lunging. But I took the lunging gear over with me, just in case.
He quietly followed me over to the arena. Quietly for half of the way. Because then he saw something in the yard that blew his brain. I looked out into the blackness of the open field next to the arena. What was out there? Deer? Moose? Land shark???
No. Cisco was losing his brain over 2 flags. Tiny flags. The flags that they put in the ground to mark for underground wires so that when you dig you don't die. There was a slight breeze so they were flapping a bit. And they have been there for months.
I made him walk up to the flags of death. He sniffed them, then looked out into the distance for a new reason to spook. Obviously the flags were real scary.
As I expected, when I turned him to continue on our path to the arena, he tried to zoom past me. Like 4 different times. By the time we got into the arena, he wasn't so quiet anymore.
But I was determined to try to ride without lunging. So I did some groundwork first to see if he would settle. I just did some simple leading, but constantly changing direction. I did it in the scary end of the arena, with the hopes that he would focus on me a bit, rather than looking for a reason to spook. It seemed to help, and he did settle much quicker than I thought he would.
So I hopped on. We walked maybe quarter of a lap and we were suddenly trotting. I was planning to do another slow, quiet ride, but Cisco thought he might have a better idea. I wondered if not lunging was a really bad idea.
He really wasn't that bad. We just had some sudden we're trotting moments. I just steered him onto a circle, let him trot a circle or two, then asked him to walk.
I do think the work from the previous night of just walking may have helped. He relaxed much faster and was for the most part less fussy with his mouth and neck. I did ask for some trot, and towards the end of the ride did some halt/walk transitions. We seem to have lost our halt under saddle. He had a really good one in the beginning, but now that he is thinking a bit more forward our halt seems to have suffered.
All in all, Cisco was pretty good with being ridden without lunging. I mean, if the worst thing that he does is trot quickly without being asked, I'm not going to complain. He still steers, his head is up, and he's not trotting at 90 mph. I am very aware that the other options could be much, much worse.