Friday, May 6, 2022

The Honeymoon Is Over (With Media!)

 The last three rides on Leonard have been very different. Of course, he is still Leonard so....yeah. But he has been earning a nickname of Spicy Jalapeno Leonard of late. 

It began with our usual Tuesday Night Lesson last week. Tuesday was farrier day so he was kept up in the barn all day. It meant that when I rushed home from work he went straight from stall to trailer to lesson. I expected a bit of energy. He was a bit "up" but mostly distracted by everything going on at the barn. They have changed to evening turnout which coincides with my lesson time, so spunky horses were being turned out all around the arena as we were warming up. He did eventually settle and give me some nice work, but he wasn't his typically amenable, easy going self. 

The Hubby made it out halfway through so I even have some media!! While my arms are always an issue they were worse with the new bit as we kept the reins already attached and they were cob length. 

Life got super busy on the farm with a major project so he didn't get ridden again for a while. I had a work outing this week which led to me pushing my lesson to Thursday. I made sure to get on and ride him at home Wednesday. He was distracted. Again though, it had been a while and he is always more distracted at home calling for and looking for the rest of the herd who were all still in the barn after eating dinner. He settled mostly, but it wasn't the ride I've come to expect from my Lenny. 

Then yesterday was our lesson and he yet again came in to it distracted, wanting to jig, he even broke to canter! He NEVER breaks to canter from a trot. If anything, he will ask to walk or halt when he gets tired. It was odd because we are also having a major heat wave with temps near 90F for the first time all year. I'd have expected him to lack energy, not have more of it. Maybe he loves the heat??

That tiny rider in the distance? It’s the Kiddo! He was trailing a horse to see if he’d be ok with him versus the pony he usually rides so that he could join a group instead of private lesson. He prefers riding with other kids than by himself but the two ponies are used for that lesson. He liked this guy just fine. 

One of the things I love the most about riding Lenny is that he is the only horse I've ever ridden that is naturally a metronome. I ask for trot and we trot at the exact same pace until I ask for something else. It is a breath of fresh air from having to micromanage every single step as we speed up or slow down randomly. The last three rides though have not been that. 

Last night he was "bad" enough that mid ride we switched him to a Big Bad Boy bit: a gentle happy mouth two ring elevator. It took a bit for us both to get used to but after a while I had my lovely metronome of a pony back. I really had missed that. EN wants me to ride in this bit until our next lesson and then try to switch him back to his regular french link full cheek snaffle. 

(The below video shows our struggle with the left lead. We very nearly got it but then his haunches moved and he swapped.)

So why do I think he has gotten some ants in his pants lately? A couple  things. For starters I think the honeymoon period has ended. I've had him for 4 months now with weekly lessons for I think 2 months. He is settled in nicely at home, gaining some much needed weight though I still think he needs a hundred pounds of combined muscle and fat to be where I'd like him, and just turned 8. I think he is beginning to feel more comfortable and less shut down about everything. Some of his angle like behavior I think was more him feeling things out. I am perfectly fine with all of this. I mean, it is super nice to see his personality start to come out. It took Hammy a full year before he started showing me his true self and still now 2 years in he is surprising me daily with hints of hidden personality. I think it will be a good bit of time yet before I know the real Leonard and I am happy to see him start to feel more comfortable. 

The other reason is that things are getting harder for him. We are expecting more of him. Leonard loves a challenge, but only a challenge he already knows the answer to. Give him something he can ace and he is proud as a peacock. Give him something he has no clue how to answer and watch him get real pissy real fast. 

This happened Thursday right from the start and I think it set up some of the peavishness we saw. I mentioned to EN that while the right lead canter is very solid, the left lead is difficult. I already knew the why to it. While Leonard is getting better and stronger, he still is weaker going left which leads to a lot of wonky bend in his body. Holding himself straight is hard. When we trot left he likes to cut the corner, throw his haunches in and crane his neck out. It makes it tricky to pick up the left lead. EN had a technique for this. 

I love this picture. We were having some issues at this point but yet look at my face. I’m smiling! Really smiling!! 

We started with a turn on the forehand. He was to stand still (already an issue, he didn't want to halt at all Thursday) then I was to use my right leg to move his butt over and pivot around his front feet. He had no idea what I was asking so he moved forward. I corrected. Asked again. He moved back. I corrected. Asked again. He pinned his ears and chomped at me. Lenny does not like getting things wrong. At one point he was standing there, I put my leg on and he turned his head and put his nose on my foot like “stop using this. I don’t know what to do!”  

Eventually we got it, but man was he upset about it. We let him walk on a long rein after but I could tell his hamster was going as he chewed the bit to death. 

Once he had time to process that we began again. EN is really having me use my legs a lot more than I am used to. To set up the canter she really wants to see me use the inside leg to push the haunches out before asking with the outside. We came around left in trot and he was all sorts of crooked. He was also really pissy so he wasn't responding to my inside leg pushing him back over. EN had me halt square. Ok. Then she told me to turn on the forehand to the right. Ok. We were now facing the fence and standing diagonal. 

EN said "ok...put your outside leg on and canter left"

I said "FROM HERE?!?!?!"

EN burst out laughing. "Yes, from there. Look ahead, right leg back, go canter"

I had a mini stroke.


I did it! I put my leg on and asked for canter and Leonard picked up the softest, most beautifully balanced left lead canter from a halt. A halt!

Leonard also thought that was HELLA FUN. His ears perked back up, he was light in the bridle, he was soft. We practiced that once more left, he nailed it, before trying it right which he nailed as well. Big Boy felt like a champion again and got all the pats.

(The below shows the left lead issues. You can see in the very first part how she wanted me to have him standing facing the rail then canter left. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in a good way)

From there we started on a small course. Leonard decided that cantering was more fun than this so he started jigging and breaking to canter. This is when EN said he needed to try a new bit. We switched him out then I went off to try it out. About 5-7 minutes later he was soft, easy and my metronome again. 

We did a small course of two related lines: I know the first was a 5 stride on the diagonal but I can’t recall the striding of the second which was on the outside line. Possibly it was 6. Either way he did fine. We trotted in, cantered out to both. The last course was a simple diagonal single to outside single. 

By the end the lesson had gone for 1 hr and 15 minutes though a lot of that was walk breaks, working on lateral work at the walk and then changing out his bit so he didn’t work physically hard for all of that. It was mentally hard for him though so I’m interested to see how the next ride goes at home.


  1. Sounds like great progress. Halt to canter transitions are a great exercise, and also tend to make horses more energetic.

    I was surprised by this: “To set up the canter she really wants to see me use the inside leg to push the haunches out before asking with the outside.” … could it be she is asking you for a leg yield to round his body around your inside leg? A haunches out prior to a canter would be unusual for me.

    1. The main issue with the left is how crooked his likes to travel. This makes a nice canter depart difficult. By asking for his haunches to move out all I'm really doing is getting him to be off my inside leg which he loves to lean on and mostly getting his hind end in line with his front. So maybe not a true haunches out in the way that I want his haunches to be outside his line of travel, but by moving them "out" I'm actually getting him straight so that I can then use my outside leg appropriately. Otherwise he is so crooked that it is ugly.

  2. The nice thing about a horse that likes ot know the answer is that once they know, it's easy. But it's hard to get them there. Carmen was like that with ToF with me too. So I started doing it from the ground so she could understand it. It helped a lot.

    1. It makes it super nice when he gets it, but the learning process can be difficult as he gets resistant and tense quickly when his first answer isn't correct. It means that I am learning that drilling will only create tension and instead I need to ask the walk away from it and work on something else he for sure knows before coming back to it.