Poor Baz, the memories of racing were going to die hard. Every time I mounted him, the head went up in that same twisted way and he threatened to take off out of control, all it would take at this stage was an unforgiving hand and all of the work done so far would have gone out the window.
He hadn’t bucked at all and considering the tension and weakness in his back that was a fair effort.
He was bold, often horses with all of bazaconi’s issues turn to shying at everything, when they are confused with what is going on with the rider, it seems everything in the world is scary. Baz had not shied once in all the time I had been working him, he was showing at least a couple of admirable traits.
No, bazaconis answer to any question to which he didn’t have the answer was “run” it didn’t really solve his problem because jockeys don’t often come off, the problem wasn’t going away, “run” hadn’t worked for him, and though I was doing everything I could to convince him there were other alternatives, every time I mounted him I could feel that “run “was his first thought.
All he was doing at the moment was walking off quickly with a rushed panicky feel but to most riders this is a signal to pick up the reins and hold on, for Bazaconi’s education this would have been a recipe for disaster.
Human nature is a funny thing, most cues our brain gives us about riding are absolutely the opposite of what we really need to do. A bit like baz running away we tend to go toward self preservation, not in a considered way but in a a panicky primitive way. We are concerned with regaining our own balance,not considering that of the living creature below us, we grip with our legs, that says to the horse “go!” we grip tighter, “go faster!” we hold the reins tighter and tighter, head In the air, back hollow, more panic,” run away from the lion on your back”
Have you ever tried to paddle on a very narrow kayak or maybe to row a single skull, they are so tippy, very very difficult to “sit up”, most people who would try to sit on one of these craft without instruction and probably someone physically holding on to it, would finish up in the water in less than a second, the boat tips one way, we overcompensate the other and in we go, less than a second. These overcompensation are just as influential to the horse the only difference whilst riding is we don’t finish up in the water, we need to consider our responses or we will, finish up on the ground and the horse at the pet food factory.
What about this example you stand In front of a boxer, he or she don’t have to be very good, “hold your hands up protect your face at all cost” they say, one quick fake to the mid section, you drop your hands to protect you tummy and before you can pick them up again the second punch has bopped you on the nose, they told you what to do and your instinct just wouldn’t let you do it, a little like instructions from a fairly average riding instructor.
So Bazaconis required very considered responses by his rider. To a professional horse person these responses come as conditioned reflex, I can generally ride most horses most of the time with my body reacting as I need it too, conditioned reflex, no more thought involved than picking up food on a fork and placing it in my mouth. This makes riding for the professional much less stressful than for the average rider.
Bazaconi made me think. If I was not constantly on my game he would take advantage of every opportunity to do something unexpected, Rush forward , head up , twist and turn, for every shift in weight or inconsistency in contact on the rein he would punish me, not dangerously but with a loss of connection and control. He was not helping me in any way shape or form. At this stage it was up to me to call all of the shots and ensure I made them very accurate.
The job of the rider is to sit still in a balanced position and give clear accurate aids to the horse, we would like the horse to listen, but in time we should expect him to do more, he should help. By maintaining tempo and rhythm he helps us maintain our stillness while everything around us is moving, if we should momentarily loose connection with the rein contact he should seek it. If we are both working toward the same goal the ride is much more enjoyable for both of us.
Baz wasn’t helping, I needed to get him on my team. The tempo and rhythm were starting to come but trying to build enough confidence in the bit so that Baz would seek it all the time even when I wasn’t helping, was going to be a fair ask.
Consistency and accuracy are the only answers, keep doing the correct things consistently, let the horse feel and learn that Being ridden is not confusing, in fact done well it is incredibly consistent.
Horses learn good stuff and bad stuff just as quickly, they come from racing with lots of bad stuff, riding horse wise, generally undoing damage done is like starting at -20 rather than zero, Baz started at about -50, it was a long road forward but the same rules of consistency and accuracy would apply.
Consolidation over and over again. Teach him to relax rather than run when confused, teach him to consider his responses.
Time passed ,consolidation was gradually occurring, Baz would travel along quite nicely as far as the uninitiated was concerned but look closely, Baz was not particularly happy, it would take some time before he began to find it easy, there was always slight head nodding at any inconsistency, remember I am talking about inconsistency in me! 30 years as a professional rider, riding with all the accuracy and care that I could, totally aware of Baz’s issues, this wasn’t inconsistency as in, riding on the trail and gathering up the reins a handful at a time Whilst talking to the person riding next to me. This was finite inconsistency and he let me know with that little bob of the head at every opportunity that I needed to be better. This may seem pedantic but I was acutely aware that unless Baz was unquestionably working toward helping the rider, all of the careful work I was doing would fall apart and quickly. Little bobs of the head and dropping of the bit for me would soon turn into head up and rushing for most riders.
end part 6