Originally, Maggie was going to ride Gentry, but her girth was too big for him. Then Anne said she’d ride him with her English saddle, but he wouldn’t stand still for her to get on, even with me holding him. He’d prance and dance, then when she was finally up, he turned into a total jerk and came up off his front feet a few times. We had Maggie’s bitless bridle on him and Anne’s saddle fit him fine, so there was absolutely no reason for him to be such a jerk! I didn’t want Anne to get hurt, so had her get off so I could ride him and Anne would ride Willow. Maggie rode Misfire in her new oh so comfy treeless saddle.
He stood fairly still for me to mount, but once I was in the saddle there was no standing still for him. That horse just wants to move. He doesn’t have to run, or even do a running walk, but if he’s not moving in one direction or another, he’s entirely unhappy. He doesn’t even jig and prance, which is what you usually find with a horse that can’t stand still.
Even in the bitless bridle there was a lot of head tossing nonsense, especially in the first 15 minutes of the ride or when I asked him to stand still and wait for the girls to catch up. He’s got a very large ground-eating walk stride and he soon left the calmer mares behind. At first it seemed like he’d never been on trail before, which I knew wasn’t the case. Leaving our property we had to cross a teeny little 6” dry ditch and he thought it was the end of the world. Later in the ride I realized that most of his worry was probably because Willow and Misfire were currently in front of him. How dare they!! He should be in the lead at all times! Any time one of the girls was in the lead, he was a rearing, pawing, nervous maniac.
Once out on the trails, he did fine with water crossings and mud puddles. He never spooked at anything, even when we passed the huge rusty oil/gas wells that usually give new horses at least a moment of pause as they consider the odds of getting eaten. As long as Gentry was in the lead, all was well in his world.
I would stop him often and ask him to stand to wait for the girls. Sometimes he’d stand quietly until they caught up, then it was back to pawing and head tossing until I let him move off again. Other times, there was no getting him to stand without the head tossing, pawing, and coming off his front feet in a semi-rear.
He’s still very disjointed between front and rear which doesn’t help with his lack of surefootedness! When going down a steep hill, if I didn’t half-halt my way down the hill and keep him somewhat balanced, he might have hit himself in the nose with his front feet! Good trail horses will look at a steep downgrade and take their time, picking their way, and watching where they place their feet. Not Gentry! If I let him have his head, he was walking down that hill as fast as he could, head held high, front legs swinging wildly out to the side. Also, he loves to throw his head to the ground when going downhill in an effort to throw his rider over his shoulder. NICE.
Gentry is going to take a good bit of work before I’m comfortable adopting him out to someone that doesn’t have experience working with his type of issues. To sum up, here’s a list of things he needs to improve before going anywhere:
1) The incessant head tossing, and taking the bridle better (he was even a pain about putting on the bitless!)
2) Standing quietly while being mounted and not moving off until asked.
3) He needs to be comfortable anywhere in a string of horses on the trail, not just in the lead.
4) Standing quietly on the trail.
5) Hill work!
6) I need to find an equine chiropractor to come out and adjust him. I think a lot of his disjointed movement when not collected comes from his long back. A couple of times on the trail yesterday I felt something click under my bum. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the saddle, so I’m thinking it was him. He didn’t seem bothered about it, but it’s best to get it looked at before I go any further with him.