I started “Soul” free jumping last week. Well we’re not free jumping yet, she’s going through the free jump lane with poles on the ground and jumping them. The poles are still a source of great excitement, so she won’t get a real jump until she accepts that they are just poles on the ground, not flaming hoops of fire. Each trip through she is less impressed with cantering down the lane. When she starts trotting, I’ll show her a cross rail. I am sure she’s going to like this part of the training.
Like all Thoroughbreds, she hates longeing, but is beginning to accept the fact that it is a daily chore. I keep telling her, “eventually you’ll like this”, but thus far, she is not convinced. Like all Diva’s she is still arguing with me over who the boss is going to be today. It is I, and she accepts that after a few “tests”, but she still doesn’t like it.
When I ride her, she is very good to mount, but is still very braced in her body at the trot. She is letting go a bit at the walk. This is fairly normal at this stage, but she is more braced than most horses. I attribute that to temperament. All racehorses begin show training in this state. It is because while at the track they are not encouraged to be supple laterally or horizontally. A straight body is a fast body. I am slowly working in suppling exercises, but this is a very difficult thing especially for an older racehorse so it’s going to be baby steps to “unlock” her body. I don’t want her to begin to fight this: a) she’ll win and b) she’ll begin to develop resistance to the training – and the goal is for her to “let go” of the tension.
My overall opinion on her at this point is that she is a talented athlete, but she is tough. The athletic part is a great thing because I do not think she will ever be suitable for an amateur rider. She’s going to need a professional level rider, so she needs to display professional level skills. She will likely be a jumper – they are expected to be a little more “up” than Eventers or Dressage horses. With her super uphill build and athleticism, she shows promise for the upper levels.
Tiny increments of progress are the goal. If I push her too hard, she will fight. Even if I win the fight, she will become a better warrior. I need her to understand that the human rider is now a partner, not a passenger. Jockeys and exercise riders stay out of the way of the racehorse. Those jocks who stay out of the way the best are the best jocks. Shoemaker once said something to the effect, I can’t make them faster than they are, but I can make them slower.