Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Gaited Dressage Wonder

I think today, I'm going to take a minute to talk about a horse that does not belong to me but I have been riding for the last couple of years. Although, I have been schooled and competed in saddleseat, it is not my first choice of discipline. But Khakie (aka KO, blonde pony, Khakie-man, turd etc.) is a different case. Due to his up and down health over the last four-five years from multiple illnesses, it is crucial that Khakie gets exercise six days a week. His mother, a close friend of the family, is a super busy business woman and needs help keeping him exercised. So, here's where I come in! Khakie had solid gaited training when I first started riding him and I got better at understanding his gaits/cues with time and the help of a gaited trainer. When the sicknesses came, there was lots of rehabbing done which meant starting from the beginning and helping him learn some of my cues as well. This is how its been for years. His mother has also branched out a bit with some driving lessons for her and KO and she asked me to do a little dressage with him just to keep his mind busy. That was all I needed to hear! First came the figures which was not all that easy dealing with a horse who has only ever gone straight in his entire riding career. Next came the laterals: leg-yields, shoulder-fore & shoulder-in. He was not all that enthusiastic with travers, but we're getting there. Walk pirouettes are really coming along and boy is he a champ at backing! My favorite thing thus far though is definitely the canter. Poor Khakie! Many times this horse has attempted cantering under saddle with different, a Saddlebred trainer, a TWH trainer, an eventer, a dressage professional, etc.and each time the outcome was very similar to that of a crab, legs moving rapidly sideways/diagonally/semi-straight. It was not comfortable or pretty to look at, so for awhile we ditched the idea. But since moving to NC and currently lacking a ring, I have had to get rather creative in my riding. We have a 5 acre open lot at the back of the property which is currently not in use so I have claimed it as my "hill arena" and only dry place to ride after rain/snow. With this I have been able to help in Khakie's cantering dilemma. After 6 months, Khakie can officially and confidently canter straight on the correct lead and perform 20m circles with ump and enthusiasm, HUZZAH! Now we still have our days where he acts like the red-head w/ blonde hair that he is with his little fiery temper but those are far and few. He goes to work trying to attempt whatever tasks I put in front of him being gaited or dressage and because of his quick thinking picks them up with ease. It makes me proud that a horse I have learned on can still learn from me and be good at it too even though it is not very conventional to his breed. Move over Warmbloods and Arabs, Khakie's hot on your tails!

Although this is not a lovely picture of him under saddle being the gaited dressage phenom that he shows that Khakie is still very good at something, taking naps in the mud!

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