Drifter’s Diary: October 2015

Early fall afternoon at the farm.
Early fall afternoon at the farm.

We are at a beginning, Drifter and I. It’s really more of a middle; after all, we’ve been working together for a year now. But this is the start of our partnership, I think. It’s certainly a new beginning in that my attention is now solely focused on him.

It feels like a beginning because we have a whole plain of unbroken possibility in front of us. It feels a bit like looking out at a field after a snowfall: a blank canvas (to use a metaphor to clarify my simile).

Physical Growth

In the last year, Drifter has grown physically. Almost exactly one year ago, on September 26, 2014, Drifter stood at 15.2 hands at the withers and 15.3 1/2 hands at the hip. When I measured him again on September 28, 2015, he stood at 16 1/2 hands and his wither his now even with his hip. You might think that I purposefully measured him after one year almost to the day, but that was a happy coincidence.

While he has plenty of room to develop muscles in his neck, shoulders and back, I think he’s looking more and more like a mature horse, and less of a baby. He has very little stamina, which is to be expected given that he’s spend the second half of the summer in the pasture as I had to use most of my riding time with Twinkle. Over the next weeks and months, I’m hoping to build that physical fitness level before it’s too cold, so he doesn’t sweat so much with his thick coat during the winter.

Happily, Drifter seems to be figuring out where his feet are…for the most part. The exception right now is the canter, which feels all over the place. This should sort itself out as I address the muscles and physical fitness, as both of those things will help his balance and coordination.

Mental Growth

Drifter has also made strides in his mental growth this year. He seems to have settled a bit – not that he was ever super spooky or out of control. He did seem to have a bit of anxiety that has mostly left him, and his focus is a lot stronger recently. He’ll still get distracted by things outside the ring, especially if he’s alone in the arena, but he comes back to work more readily.

He’s a calm guy overall. Trot poles don’t faze him in the slightest. Cavalettis are also no problem at the trot or canter. We did jump him once over the summer and he could not have cared less about the tiny jumps in front of him. Our fingers are crossed that he’ll have more respect for some bigger jumps when the time comes, and will actually pick up his feet!

Goals for the Future

I’m all about long-term goals. I love planning. In the short term, as I mentioned, my goals include building Drifter’s stamina and working on balance, particularly at the canter. Long term, it looks like he has potential to be a good all-around horse. His headset is naturally long and low, and he can be very consistent and steady. That will be good for the hunters. Also helpful for hunters: he’s really pretty. He can be such a slug when he’s not so interested in the work we’re doing, though. He does perk up when we start doing things like trot poles, so hopefully when he starts jumping in earnest, he’ll take to his job.

Last week, I jumped him again in my lesson and it was a total non-event. Leanne set up a little single vertical, maybe two feet high. We cantered down the line and he wiggled a bit the first time on the approach. Being used to Twinkle, I put my leg on firmly, grabbed mane and prepared for a hesitation followed by a big effort…which never came. He just hopped right over so calmly, it felt like a slightly more elevated canter stride. It felt like his thought process went something like this: “Hey, there’s an obstacle down there. Looks like we should go around it. No, we go over it? Oh, okie dokie.” *shrugs*

There could be potential as a jumper there if he can pick up the pace a bit. He’s extremely responsive – to the point where I am still figuring out how much or how little it takes to slow a gait versus breaking gait, or even a complete halt. I’ve ended up pitched forward by his neck a few times when I over-ask and he halts on a dime! This could possibly be used for our advantage in the jumpers. Combined with the balance we’re working on, if he can slow it down enough to make tighter turns that other, possibly speedier horses, we could still be competitive.

All of that is to say: The long term goal, for now, is to see what Drifter likes as he starts doing more challenging work. It will be most telling as his strength grows and the jumps get higher. See what I mean about an unbroken plain of possibilities?

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