But first ...
Lessons begin at 5:00 p.m. It's dark by 5:30 - really dark. The arena lights at JL's place are being repaired, something about a cut line when the new block wall was installed. Good thing there was nearly a full moon and no clouds. It is equally good that Speedy G is silver in the moonlight. JL could see every move he made even if I couldn't see her. The other hidden benefit to riding in the near dark is that it requires riding by feel and not so much by sight. I got a good lesson in riding with my body and not with my eyes. But back to the GO and WHOA!
I went to the lesson with whip in hand and explained to JL that Speedy has decided that since I am no longer allowing him to fall into the canter, he doesn't want to canter. For several days I rode whip-less and wore my legs out with kicking. Oh, no, no, no! came JL's reply. That isn't how it's done! JL said he gets one ask, and only one. After that, it's whack, whack, whack with the whip.
Ask for the canter, she said, and then whack, whack, whack when he hesitates. For whatever reason, Speedy was very forward on Wednesday evening and didn't require a whack until later in the lesson (more about that later). When I asked for the canter, he launched himself forward and galloped around the end of the arena. I instinctively sat back and pulled for a slow down. Nope, came JL's command, if he wants to gallop, let him. Let's teach him a lesson. And so we did. We galloped for days. I silently pleaded with Speedy to slow down ... please? Galloping at one end of the area is hard work. And rather than ask for slow, JL had me do the Sydney rein-rock to soften Speedy's hell-bent-for-leather gallop into something lighter. Just as he would lighten up and start to slow down, he would remember that I had the whip and planned on using it at the first available opportunity, and off he'd race again. Rats!
This went on for some time, but as horses always do, he realized that he wasn't getting anywhere and was in fact only getting tired. He came back to a trot and then a walk. Ask again, came JL's instructions. I asked, got nothing, and gave a whack, whack, whack. Speedy literally gave a Holy heck - you gotta be kiddin' me! It worked though - he went forward off my leg after that!
The rest of the lesson turned into F-O-R-W-A-R-D off my leg, not sideways, not backward, not skidding all over the place. I have never worked my outside leg and outside rein as hard as I did on Wednesday. Speedy reared, Speedy bucked, Speedy did everything except canter forward. When I closed the door on the outside, his favorite way to evade, he got mad. I was insistent that he use his butt for forward and that when I ask for a whoa, he come back on his butt. Speedy wants to slow the front end down and then let his hind end fish tail to the side. Uh uh ... Not on JL's watch.
Once he was cantering forward, he was determined to run right out from under me. That's when the lesson in WHOA began. We practiced GO! followed by a WHOA! Over and over and over. Leg means go forward, a deep breath with a deeper seat and should blades squeezed tight means stop. Speedy went from one extreme to the other desperately searching his bag of tricks for just the right naughty to get me off his case. He tried to rear, I stuck on and as soon as his front feet touched down he was moving sideways - HARD! He tried bucking, but each time he did, I slammed him to a halt, sent him sideways and applied a whack, whack, whack of the whip.
That little booger just never gave up. We worked the full hour with me on his case every time he farted around. And he did a lot of farting around. He just has so much personality, ahem - strong opinions, that he refuses to just quit and give up. I know that this lesson will pay off and that he will remember it. He'll be better off my leg, and he'll be quicker on the whoa. I think the canter transition will be a long work in progress. JL wants me to work on haunches in. There will no doubt be an upcoming post on my foibles with that maneuver.
So, here's to bad boys. Girls just seem to love 'em, don't we?