Knots’ head is more firmly on his shoulders

Last week we hosted our first annual Jump for Life show. It was a blast organizing, coaching, and watching. We had a lot of big lessons learned by the kids and there were lots of prizes to go with them. Knots was a back up horse for Maggie’s son, A. The normal horse he has been riding is Simon, who is a really good guy. Simon has such a good nature. Oh, a bad spot? Ok, I’ll handle it. Faster? ok. Oh slower here? Check. Lead change? Already done.

Coaching at the show

Some other students were planning to ride Simon for the show and we could only have so many, so A got to ride Knots instead. Quick history: He was the first one to ride Knots a few years ago. He spent a lot of time working on the basics. Knots learned how to not run away at the canter (as bad) and also how to relax and stand around a bit. Since he spent so much time riding Knots before I did, A usually rode him at playdays and other fun events at the farm (Knots is super, super fast). Normally, afterwards, Knots would be completely crazy and take ages to calm down. Like need to have several rides before he would realize I didn’t want to gallop into the sunset. Even though I am way shorter than A, he was still in run mode.

Enter the Jump for Life show. A needed a horse to ride, and Knots was the guy. They practiced three times the week before the show, and Knots was stopping in front of jumps when he jumped even a hair ahead. But there was no galloping off afterwards. No crazy freak outs. He was going soooo slllooowwww. I think the combination of Knots learning more and the general improvement in the A’s position has made him less reactive. They jumped at the show and had moderate success. Knots was extremely chill, much more than I expected. They would have had the fastest round without the refusals, and they weren’t even going full tilt.

This is a chill face for a jumping round!

Back to the present: Last night I had a dressage ride on my schedule (haha I pretend I have a schedule anyways). I got Knots tacked up and decided to ride in the side reins without lunging first. Lunging is somewhat annoying, especially because I usually end up leaving my equipment out for some undetermined amount of time. Knots was totally cool with the side reins, but he was really running away from my leg. We argued about it for about 20 minutes of walking and trotting.

I tightened the side reins two holes and BAM! He stopped fighting with me. This seems very curious. They weren’t actually adjusted that tight to begin with; I usually adjust them a hole or two looser for riding than lunging. I’m still going to be thinking about why this happened. Maybe I underestimated the warm up or some other random variable.

In the moment though, I was enjoying him moving off my leg without changing his rhythm. It was kind of magical. We worked on serpentines and walk/trot transitions. Then we cantered around the roping pen a few times and made smaller circles a couple of times. It was almost like I was riding a different horse at the beginning versus the end of the ride.

I think this is a great example of how far we have come along. Instead of continuing to fight (either with the tack or each other) we can now slow the grump-cycle and communicate clearly. He knew what I was asking for, he just didn’t give it to me. I haven’t decided whether I think that’s because I was being unclear in asking or if he just didn’t want to.

In any case, I was really pleased when we ended the ride on a good note where we were actually communicating effectively. This is even more exciting when you think about how it used to take 2-3 rides for Knots to chill after a speed round with A. He really is figuring out what is expected of him. Go team!


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