Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick

I’ve been fairly mum on Roman for a variety of reasons. When I feel less than stellar mentally, the act of sitting down to write about ponies seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things and I don’t bother. Additionally, even though my trainer doesn’t believe me I’m planning on Roman being a longer term resale project. That doesn’t mean he won’t make blog appearances, but it does mean that I won’t be publishing every single little detail on the internet like I did with Simon. Roman is a really cool horse and has the potential to be a nice local hunter in my opinion, but I can’t keep collecting Thoroughbred geldings in a forever home. 🙂

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Plus what we’ve been working on is just plain boring. It’s only marginally exciting today because I have pictures. If you felt like you’ve been missing out on the Roman action for the past 30 days, just read this summary:

I lunged today. We worked on holding his gaits evenly and calmly on the line. Then I walk/trotted and worked on the same thing. Repeat.

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Within the past few weeks though, I’ve turned a bit of a corner with Roman (this will soon change for the negative I’m sure). He’s starting to feel more like my horse and less like some gigantic foreign creature I drug out of the pasture. The adjustment for me has been pretty significant, because Simon and Roman couldn’t be more different.

  • Simon is agile & catty. Roman is… not.
  • Simon is naturally built uphill and goes uphill. Roman does… not.
  • Simon has a short stride. Roman’s goes on for days and days.
  • Simon sticks at 16.2hh but is all withers. Roman sticks a little below 16.3hh but is all body.

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A lot of these differences I enjoy about Roman – like his size and his gigantic stride. They’re qualities I was shopping for specifically, but I didn’t realize how long it would take me to start to feel comfortable on him. Truthfully I did more the first day I rode him at the sale barn than I have at home up to this point, but that’s okay.

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While I’ve been getting used to him, my trainer has been riding Roman once or twice a week and giving me instructions. We both agree that he’s got some fantastic qualities. He’s a fast learner, and genuinely wants to do the right thing. We all know Simon is my heart and loves me as much as a horse can, but Roman is a much sweeter horse than Simon. He loves everyone and everything, and has this big, dopey kind eye that is slowly garnering my affection.

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Our rides have been focusing almost exclusively on flatwork, which has a lot that needs correcting. Roman’s preferred way of going is heavy & fast. When he gets tired, he wants to lay on your hands and quickly shuffle around on the forehand. It’s oh so pleasant. We’ve been doing a lot of work on telling him that we expect him to carry himself at a steady pace. At the trot I can usually get him light and even, but it’s still a work in progress.

Happy with this trot right now
Happy with this trot right now
Not so much with this one. Going dooooooooown
Not so much with this one. Going dooooooooown

The canter has been much harder. He’s very weak, and wants to swap out in the hind (especially to the right). This has gotten better by leaps and bounds, but usually towards the end of my ride when him and I are both a bit tired we stop holding up our end of the bargain. I don’t support him well enough and he doesn’t hold it together well enough, and the canter gets a bit special.

LEGS. LEGS EVERYWHERE.
LEGS. LEGS EVERYWHERE.

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Roman also tends to get heavy/fast a lot more at the canter than he does the trot, which is challenging because he is dead in the mouth really heavy. At his worst, it feels like you’re riding a dinosaur that’s trying to quickly tunnel you into the earth. Not my favorite.

When he's being a good boy
When he’s being a good boy

There are nice moments though, and it’s getting better. We’re trying to figure out what bit he should go in right now. He needs a little leverage at times, but we both hated the gag when we tried it. Trainer is currently thinking a baby pelham, so I’ll have to get used to riding with two reins again!

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Downhill, but I love how relaxed he starts off

Even though I have no flashy jumping pictures or shows scheduled, I’m pleased with the progress so far. All of these baby steps with flatwork can feel a little bit tedious at times, but in my heart I know it’s the right way to get the horse I want in the end. My trainer has lunged him over jumps and I’ve been trotting crossrails more often lately. He never bats an eye at anything, and I know that the jumping will come together 1,000% better when our flatwork is more solid.

This is as exciting as it gets now folks
This is as exciting as it gets now folks

Until then, you’ll find me doing endless circles of bending and transitions.

32 thoughts on “Brick by Brick

  1. My guy has that same tunneling feeling (although built uphill, he is flexible enough to canter in good balance with his head between his knees. yay. ) and I had a lot of success with a full cheek french link until he got strong enough to lift off my seat/leg. There is just a touch of leverage with the full cheek, especially if you keep the little bit holder thing that I can’t remember the name off at the top of bit 🙂

  2. What a good boy he seems to be! I totally get the “details on the internet” thing. When I play the “what could I sell Connor for and how would I do it?” game, I’m like “Step One: Revert all of my posts to draft.”

    …and I am also completely distracted by your fabulous outfit in those pictures. That shirt is awesome!

  3. I don’t think you could show in it, but I love the Beval bit- it’s popular with eventers. I think you can actually use it with gag cheeks but usually you see it with the cavesson in the top ring and rein in the bottom ring. its otherwise a lose ring snaffle, but provides just that tiny tiny bit of leverage.

  4. He’s such a sweetheart. I think the ‘boring’ stage of training you’re in with Roman can sometimes be the most rewarding, because the little improvements just feel so dramatic! There’s a celebration around every corner! I also LOL’d at the tunneling dinosaur image… too funny.

  5. Riding a quarterhorse, I feel your pain on the downhill part. Cantering at the end of a ride always led to frustration on both of our parts due to the tired factor. So I moved it up to start it earlier and, in so doing, we end up with better canter, and then go back to a lighter trot without having to drill it for 30 minutes. But now that we have (and I mostly mean she has) been in consistent training for almost a year, the jumping has come leaps and bounds because the flatwork has improved so much.

    Have you tried the hunter D with a small port? That helped a bit with the getting the pony up a little lighter in front.

  6. He looks like the sweetest boy. The personable horses are always so much fun.

    If you’re looking for unsolicited bit suggestions- my trainer had me use a double bridle instead of a gag. I used mostly the snaffle rein and had the leverage of the Weymouth when needed.

    I’ve been eyeing that shirt. It’s so cute!

  7. even tho its tedious and doesnt make titillating blog entries you are so right, when you get to the point where youve nailed all this down his progress will zoomy zoom.

    i lolled at your description of him as a tunneling dinosaur

  8. Brick by brick, is right, these are the brick foundations you are laying. Progress is progress, and you guys look great together already! I love his roman nose (I may or may not comment that everytime).

  9. Welcome to Giant Horse land! I feel like you described the Moose that is Ramone (minus the dead in the mouth part). Did I paint him and you buy him?

  10. Oh man, I remember the early days when Hero didn’t have a canter… it was basically trot faster and faster until he fell into a canter, then I would have to hold his front end up and we attempted to do a lap. Don’t miss those days, that’s for sure! Brick by brick is a great title.

  11. Ah, endless transitions and circles. Such joy. Much fun. But I promise, it does pay off!

    Also, he’s so HUNKY! And I love he eye. He just looks like such a kind guy.

  12. I love his little listening ears in every photo- he looks like he’s concentrating SO. HARD.!

    Work sells a lot of Neue Schule Verbindends to people whose horses lean. It’s a loose ring, though, so you may not like to aesthetic for hunters or Roman may not like all the input from a loose ring. NS makes a Turtle Top D-ring, tho which is also good for leaners.

    At any rate, good luck with the bit and good luck with the cantering!

  13. aw what a sweet expression ! sounds like you’ve got a good plan for him and a good sense of how to develop exactly the kind of ride you want. good luck and personally i enjoy reading about it 🙂

  14. I feel you. Romey is still recovering somewhat from his old track injury, so while I CAN ride him, he’s not allowed to jump or do any sort of trot poles or anything. We mostly walk/trot. Who knew walking and trotting could be so challenging though?!
    You’re for sure on the right path. I know it’s a little boring, but it will all be worth it! You two look great together!

  15. I also have a giant horse! One that loves to go downhill! and get heavy in the hands! I kept nodding while reading your post. I can so relate. You are doing the right thing. Transitions, transitions. Eventually leg yield within the canter will bring those ears up, too!

  16. Agree with others that you look very classy riding him.

    Welcome to dressage-land where the circles never end. Not boring to me!

  17. Sounds a bit like Sydney. Getting the most/best out of downhill horses can be a major struggle, but once you get there it feels amazing. I personally have a huge feeling of accomplishment at the fact that I have managed to get Sydney much lighter on her front end through lots of hard work.

  18. It takes time and you guys will get there. It sounds like you’re on the right road and as others suggested, maybe moving the canter work up in the ride when he’s still a bit more fresh will give better results. It will also take time for his muscles to develop and his stamina to increase where he will be able to hold the correct position longer.

    If he’s leaning on the bit, have you tried letting go? He can’t (and won’t) lean on something that isn’t holding him up. Would you lean on a rickety chair or rail? Lots of up and down transitions, even between just the halt, walk and trot will fix this. There is a lot can be developed at the walk. In dressage tests it counts double for a reason.

    As far as your so called boring rides, even if you just document it for yourself, its nice having it to go back to as a refresher or something to say-> Look at what we’ve done! It’s why I still have all of my own notes on pony man and his “boring” starter package work. Please don’t discount it or yourself that way. You deserve credit for your work, even if it is giving yourself the credit. You earned it because you’ve got this!

  19. Really excited about reading your journey ! And I get the not having the motivation to wrote about ponies when my head isn’t in the right place! Sometimes its therapeutic other times it feels like a chore!

  20. Just found your blog while searching for plus-sized riding apparel.

    Wish I had found you sooner!

    Rock on!

  21. I know I am SO late on this one and not even sure if you still have him, but I had the same exact issue with my horse. He got super upset with the gag but really responded to a Waterford and loved the pessoa Waterford “magic bit” even more. its gentle so it doesn’t gank them god forbid, but they aren’t able to lean on it. Hope this helps!

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