I am posting this in the dressage forum, however this post is about my very sensitive 17hh 7yo OTTB gelding who I intend to event… Of course, dressage seems to be our downfall… Here is some background info:
Ive had this horse for 2yrs now and he has always been a “hot” horse. He is insanely sensitive and I have found this to be a good and bad quality. I have been really focusing on our flatwork over the last year. His nervousness can sometimes hinder us, but with regular turnout and structure, he does very well…He is one of those horses who you lead out of the stall and hope you get the easy uneventful version of him… He was started in a myler level 2 eggbutt bit and he did really well. We regularly do hunter paces and he requires the myler combination to do those, but is sensible and adjustable… Over the winter he began consistently cross cantering (swapping leads in his hind end), mostly to the left. I did diagnostics and found nothing of concern really (I feared neurological even). We began doing strengthening exercises on the ground over cavalettis and that issue is almost completely resolved. During the hard time, he was coming down from an episode of cross cantering (in our indoor)and during the downward trans. he fell (with me) pretty badly. He came out of it sound but I am sure it’s contributed to anxiety at the canter for him and possibly still even me, that i may not be aware of.
Lately, I’ve switched to an FEI legal bit in hopes to get him ready to debut at the end of august. The first thing I tried was a D ring with a decent sized lozenge and he wasnt a huge fan. I then tried a Stubben sweet copper baucher with the lozenge and he did well for about a week before completely disrespecting it and gaping his mouth, and being generally unhappy. I then purchased a Nuele Shule loose ring for him with the ergonomical curvature in it so it has zero pinch. He’s been schooling in that and a plain cavesson for about 2 months now and I have been generally very pleased with him. However, since we are reintroducing the canter, he has seemingly forgotten how to use his hind end. So, i was doing exercises where, in the center of our arena i would obtain a nice round trot and ask for a canter while pushing him out to a bigger circle and THEN throwing the reins at him and letting him figure out how to carry us both. He tends to stick on a 20ish M circle without guidance and was eventually figuring it out.
Most recently (past few weeks), after battling a hot nail/abscess, we went back to work and i found he had learned that tendency to dive to the inside when asked to trot (expecting our normal exercise). I have almost completely untrained that bad habit and now when I add the contact to him, he likes to kinda drag me around mouth gaping… This horse didnt like the flash when he went in the baucher, and i have tried loosening this cavesson to help, but no change.
If i try to do transition work (canter to trot/walk and back to canter) he gets outrageously hot and strung out during which he counterbends and basically has a mental breakdown. Needless to say he requires quite a lot of patience and is not easy by anyone’s standards…and his inconsistencies are kind of frustrating now. I have looked at the saddle fit and it seems good. He is ridden in a Bates Caprilli (MW gullet… He has a huge shoulder) to school in (i know, i know…the dressage saddle comes in a few weeks though) with a thinline pad.
Since I cant do transition work effectively, would circles help? Am I asking for too much too soon? I’ve thought of going back to our on the buckle exercises, too? His teeth were floated earlier this year without issue. I hear a lot of horses like this go well in a french link, and have thought about trying it, but worry with as strong as he CAN be it might not be ENOUGH. We had two nice canter circles (one each way) today and at one point afterwards while trotting, anticipated me asking again and half-bolted. Thankfully I am used to racehorses but this guy has been a true challenge. I love him to death and really want to help him be comfortable and reach his full potential, but I am in a rut.
Any advice is appreciated!