|This blurry, cute face is growing on me..|
That being said, things are not 100% perfect, or 100% push-button, but they are 100% fun and I'm thrilled.
It's clear that there hasn't been a lot of time devoted to flatwork, or any sort of a primary foundation of any sort... But Windsor has been a good student and tried hard, all while maintaining a sense of calm and some really cute floppy gray ears.
I got to the barn early (duh) so that I would have some extra time to get ready and I enjoyed every minute. He's a sweetie in turnout, and when the gale force winds of whatever storm is starting to blow through picked up, he didn't- and just followed me in on a loose lead.
I got all tacked up and got on with a few minutes to spare so I could walk around and get acquainted again. He was perfectly happy to march along on the buckle and once again gave no hint of interest in any of the jump piles, or back door or anything - and I can't tell you how nice that feels.
Prair got to a place where she was a pretty steady and reliable mount, but I never totally let my guard down since it always seemed like she was actively surveying her surroundings. Windsor doesn't give you that sense at all. He's alert, and his ears are forward, but it feels more like an excited Golden Retriever rather than a watch dog protecting his fences...
Our warm up was easy, lots of shoulder-in and leg yields. He is a bit confused by lateral work, but does a nice job of trying. Mostly we are focusing on asking him to fill the outside rein and really step under with his inside hind. A request that seems somewhat foreign to him (lol)
He is unsure of all the micromanaging but is a quick study and improved with every repetition.
On my end, I need to work on is keeping him forward during the ask, and not get talked into shortening his neck.
At the canter the emphasis was on getting him to come forward. He's happy in a nice little small canter, and apparently he can jump just fine out of it, so I don't think it's ever been much of an issue.... but we asked for a bigger step and more gallop to really push him straight. It's hard for me, because he sorta bounces me out of the tack, but I think I'll get the hang of it eventually.
Then we got to jump. Sadly there is no video evidence :(
The plan was just to pop over a few fences, since we aren't in a rush for anything. We started with two small verticals on opposite diagonals that we could just figure eight over forever.
My first fence was lovely, just let him come forward and he popped over nice and round. Landed softly and balanced, no scooting or scampering about. Second fence I had a great Hunter Gap to... then back around to the first one... a little tight, then the second one... I tried to trust the long spot, but ended up chipping/lurching over it like a goober.
I slipped my reins so he could recover and just about the time my brain was thinking "oh shit" he loped off like I hadn't totally blown the fence. We did that a couple times (or at least with slight variations on a theme) and every time he just landed and cantered away without even so much as a head waggle or swishy tail.
Then for fun, a line was set with a little trot fence in, and a quiet five out to a vertical. I rounded the corner with a nice peppy little trot and just as I dropped to my sit trot to support the fence Windsor seemed to realize that clearly I wasn't steering and he just sorta.... stopped.
And snorted at the flower boxes.
Which raised the question if he's ever seen a flower box, or been asked to trot a fence before. I honestly got the sense that he wasn't spooking or refusing the task, but saying "ummmmm What? you're doing this wrong."
The second approach resulted in a rather expressive leap over the flowers, followed by landing in a heap, but recovering brilliantly and jumping out politely. I repeated the line several times, each with a slightly different cartoon version of leaping over the trot fence, but always with a smooth recovery and a brilliant jump out.
After a short break (neither of us could be accused of being "fit" at this point), we went back and the fences went up a bit. Each time the trot fence got smoother, and the jump out a bit bigger. We ended with the vertical set to about 3'3", which isn't mind blowingly massive - but for me to do that the first time out and feel zero, I repeat ZERO anxiety about it, was awesome. This horse was built to jump. It's effortless for him and not concerning at all.
When we were through, and I caught my breath again - I looked at my trainer, grinned, and said that in my mind, we didn't pay for his cute jump - though its CUTE - but rather those five, easy, relaxed stride after the fence.
My PTSD with Prair had everything to do with those five strides after the fence. My margin of error with the mare was very small. Leave too short or too long and there was hell to pay on the other side. And even if we did nail the correct distance, landing into a corner was enough to induce anxiety and send us careening around the turn...
Windsor just lands and the next stride feels like there was never any jump. He's right back underneath himself and right back in his rhythm. Honestly I've never had that feeling so consistently with a horse that's new to me.
It's very comforting and it makes it all very fun. I felt my brain return to my teenage days where I was always hoping for one more course, or one more turn through the gymnastic, or one more chance with the single oxer... I am definitely hungry for more.
Windsor probably won't ever win the hack, but that feeling on landing is exactly what I need, and I'm thrilled that so far he's everything that he was represented to be.
I LOVE GRAY BRAD.
Also, in an attempt to fluff the Boy up a bit, I asked for his groceries to be increased. This barn has never been stingy with feed, but in had to giggle when I found this in his stall...
I assure you, if I still had a three ring binder, it would be covered in liquid whiteout saying "I heart Gray Brad" and "Mrs Windsor."
I am officially obsessed with this horse. Obsessed.