Screeching to a Halt

I’ve started hacking this schoolmaster who’s done no hacking for the last three years, but in an attempt to get him competition fit I’ve been roped in to do some hacking and canter work.

He’s hilarious really, because he’ll be walking along and suddenly stop. Then he peers at the white fence, or tyre, or fallen log, like a Grandad peering through his glasses. After taking it in, he carries on. 

We’re getting less of the stopping and staring now, just the peering around corners in walk, but I’m sure you can imagine what happens in trot and canter!

The first hack I screeched to a halt halfway along the path we were trotting along. Our companion, or babysitter, bumped into us in a typical pile-up style. So now I’m getting used to it I know where he might stop and can put my leg on. Together with the fact he’s seen more, we can now trot in a relaxed way from the word go.

Last week on the gallops we did a couple of side steps from the long grass to the even longer grass as we cantered along. Or tried to canter! It takes him a while to get into his canter stride because he’s too busy checking out his surroundings! Again, it’s practice and confidence with him and I’m glad to say that it’s now taking five strides to get him cantering with a relaxed, open stride, instead of five minutes of bunny hopping around twigs, tiny puddles, and shadows!

But earlier this week we had a true emergency stop. It was a new canter track, so I asked for trot and when he was relaxed, canter. We started bunny hopping, peering at the twigs, dappled light, but I sat in the saddle and squeezed my legs round him. Eventually he opened his stride and started enjoying the canter. Ears forward, his neck and back softened and it was a lovely rhythm carrying me through the trees. I still didn’t do a full light seat, and stayed slightly behind the movement just in case.

Really enjoying the canter, I realised the end of the path was coming. And there was a parked car there! Knowing that he wouldn’t be expecting that I decided to make the transition to walk on my terms. I sat up, half halted. He lifted his head as he steadied slightly, saw the blue car and slammed on the brakes! We could have rivalled the greatest barrel racers with that halt! His hindquarters came almost under the saddle, hind feet sliding to a stop. I’ve never felt the hindquarters go that much lower than the wither!

After checking out the car he walked past it happily. We will just have to keep working on his ability to approach strange things (which aren’t that strange) at a steady pace because if I didn’t have a Velcro bum then I would have done an impressive vaulting dismount over his head!!