Olaf has finally gained enough weight where I feel comfortable starting to ride him. I’ve led the kids around on him for a few minutes at a time, and I led my daughter on the trail for about 20 minutes.
I don’t feel comfortable going any longer than that, simply because he’s still thin and needs to eat more than he needs to exercise. But, he also needs to rebuild the muscle on his back and hind quarters, and the best way to do that is by walking. He’s not been ridden in months, maybe even more than a year, and I wanted to ease him back into the idea that he does have to work for a living. Short walks around the yard with a kid on his back are a good intro to being a riding horse again.
The other day I decided to hop on him myself for a few minutes, just to see how he did. He’s fine being led around, but you never know what’s going to happen with an independent rider. Up to this point, he has been absolutely delightful in every way and hasn’t given me any indication that he would be difficult under saddle. When he first came, he was a little pushy on the ground, but only when he was scared. After a few reminders about my personal space, he was good to go. He has a heart of gold to match his bronze colored body.
I rode him in two saddle pads with my bareback pad on top because his back is still pretty bony. Oddly enough, I am now more comfortable riding in the bareback pad than in a saddle for the simple reason that if I need to bail, I can do it quickly. I don’t have to drop my stirrups; I just slide off the side.
I also rode in a halter and reins, just to see how he would do. I prefer bitless, and I work toward bitless with all of my horses, but I need brakes and steering and they don’t always have that without a bit. It does take some training.
I hopped on with no problem. He didn’t mind being mounted. We started off across the yard and he had both brakes and steering in the halter. Everything was going along merrily until he hit a patch of clover and put his head down. Try as I might, I could not get that big ole head back up out of the clover. I pulled and pulled on the reins, I clucked, I kicked, I smacked his rump, and…. nothing but nom, nom, nom. I may as well have been a gnat. He paid me zero attention and kept right on enjoying his impromptu snack.
Finally I had to get off, go back to the trailer and switch out the halter for a real bridle with a bit. His head is gigantic, even bigger than Ellie’s. I have the cheek piece of the bridle on the very last hole, and I have to take off the browband because it won’t fit around his big head. Ellie’s bit seemed to work okay for him, but he probably needs one size bigger.
With the bit in, we didn’t have any more problems. If he tried to graze, I was able to quickly get his head back up. He just needs to learn that he can’t eat while he’s working. Otherwise, he was wonderful. I can’t wait til he gains more weight and I can take him out on the trail. I am so excited about him. He has a wonderful personality and he loves me, such a change from my salty mule! He follows me to the gate every night when I leave, he loves to be petted, and he has taken to being ridden with no problem. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse!