Miles and I have been together for 3 years now, and I think I’m finally starting to really figure him out. It sounds silly… like why would it take me 1,095 days to understand my horse and his needs? But that’s honest to goodness what it feels like. After our stellar final show of the season, I backed way off of riding Miles, and I plan to continue to only ride him lightly throughout the entire winter. So, what’s he been up to then?
Lots and lots of trail rides. I’ve pretty much only ridden Miles twice a week since the show season ended, and almost all of our rides have been out on the trails. We’ve done two off-property rides, where Miles was excellent, and we continued to build up our confidence outside of the ring. We can now:
- Lead or follow in a group, no matter the location
- Calmly walk through ditches and water, although sometimes away from home we still need a lead horse
- Trot on trails, while leading or following
- Carefully navigate rocky footing
- Go down steep hills without somersaulting
Back at home, I’ve gone on a few trail rides too — some with friends and a few by myself. No matter how much time off he’s had, or how “up” he feels at the beginning of the ride, Miles is always well-behaved. Each time we go out, I go a little bit farther and go a little bit faster. In fact, on Monday we cantered out in the open jump field for the first time! It’s amazing to watch my confidence grow outside the arena, and just how much Miles enjoys it.
Our rides outside the ring are paying off in the arena too. One day last week though it had rained too much to go out on the trails, so Miles and I wandered around the property near the barns for a bit before trotting and cantering in the outdoor ring. Two jumps were left up and on a whim, I thought “let’s pop over them!” The first attempt was…. very sketchy — I didn’t ride AT ALL, which resulted in a terrible distance. But , as soon as I raised my eye and added leg, the perfect distance showed up and Miles jumped wonderfully. So well in fact, we came around to the diagonal rolltop and jumped that too. He felt fabulous over the top of the jumps, really using his entire body, and he stayed balanced on the landing side and offered a very smooth lead change with zero attitude. The jumps were probably 2’3″ or 2’6″, so nothing earth shattering, but that was the first time I’ve jumped Miles outside of a lesson in over a year. Talk about a 180 degree turnabout in confidence!
See? I think I’ve finally got Miles figured out!