Bobby is a Pony
After not being to get down off of Merlin without help I woke up last Sunday REALLY reluctant to ride him. I couldn’t get Shannon on the phone to tell her I had to switch to someone shorter for the summer, so I took two bridles and three girths out to the farm. Luckily I got there before Shannon had caught Merlin and she cheerfully agreed to let me ride Bobby, her British Riding Pony, who had been donated to her program because he had had ulcers. Turning Bobby out into the pasture took care of the ulcers, and I had ridden him for a while several years ago. Bobby had decent hunt seat training, knew how to flex his lower jaw and several other tricks of the trade, and I had fun riding him. But once I switched to Merlin and Cider I did not get back to riding Bobby until last week.
Bobby is a CUTE 13.2 hand chestnut pony, all roly-poly, and with a pretty head and face. He looks like the pony that every little girl dreams of owning and loving. However, whatever dreams of cooperative ponies his rider may have, this just give Bobby a chance to exercise his essential pony character, one of stubborn uncooperativeness and basically trying to overrun anyone who tries to tell him what to do. After all Bobby is the boss of the herd, his best friend Merlin, the 18.2 giant I had been riding, does everything Bobby tells him to. Why should the mighty Bobby obey lowly humans? Shannon thinks she is too big to ride Bobby, so it is up to me to convince him that obeying humans while being ridden is a good thing to do. He obeys Shannon fine on the ground, but anyone else has to convince this mighty atom that they are up to his tricks and know how to make him behave, and Bobby is full of the usual pony tricks.
Luckily my Wintec Wide saddle mostly fits his back, and the Corrector pad takes care of the rest of the fitting issues. I had gotten two dressage girths when I rode Cider in it, luckily the shorter one was barely short enough to work with Bobby. I remember that Bobby did NOT like the bits I had tried on him years ago (single jointed snaffle, Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS, various Dr. Bristols), he ended up grinding them constantly between his molars. He did somewhat better in my Nurtural bitless bridle in that he was not grinding his jaws, but he had difficulty in switching from being driven forward into the bit to being driven forward into the Nurtural. I had stopped riding Bobby because I figured that my problems mainly arose from the fact that my saddles were too narrow for him. This time, with my wider treed saddle, I decided to use the Mullen mouth snaffle I’ve been using on the Arabs with the Micklem Multi-bridle. I was sort of worried about his reaction to my new leather fringe brow band but that didn’t seem to bother him at all.
It is SO MUCH EASIER to get up on Bobby than it was getting up on Merlin. I can use the regular two-step mounting block instead of the six-step stairway. Up on Bobby I don’t feel like I am riding a mountain and I don’t get vertigo looking down at the ground. And Bobby actually moves forward instead of mostly balking, well mostly forward. Both days I’ve ridden Bobby it has been a constant discussion on how even a cute pony is supposed to move forward and straight. First Bobby wants to go to Shannon, and when I don’t let him he then wants to rub my leg against the arena fence. Both evasions turn into horrible shoulder-ins until Bobby finally consents to move somewhat straight. The gate is another point of fascination, Bobby loves the gate and sees no reason why he should go past it. After all the other horses are on the other side happily grazing, and Bobby wants to join them. As for standing still, well Bobby only wants to stand still if he is next to Shannon or at the gate. Since Bobby is over weight I had been planning on just walking him for a long while, like through the summer if necessary, since I do not want to founder him. The way things are going though I do not want to trot him at all until I get him moving properly at the walk. This may take me all summer, fall and winter.
Bobby ducks his head and then tries to whirl on his forehand in the direction he wants to go. If I stop him from going where he wants to go then he tries to run me into the fence, and sometimes I have to use my outside spur to get him away from the fence. As I keep him from the fence he is looking for any slackness in my reins so he can dive in toward Shannon or the gate. I HAVE TO ride Bobby on contact, if I give him loose reins he thinks he can do whatever he wants. Both rides have been me trying to get Bobby to go STRAIGHT, at least for a few steps. I work on keeping myself centered in the saddle in case I am accidentally giving Bobby weight aids to turn, but he still looks for each and every chance to do what he wants, not what I want. If I am approaching the arena fence head on and I want to turn one way Bobby wants to turn the other way, and it does not seem to matter which way I want to turn! My legs will be sore tomorrow, I had to use them so much to keep Bobby going in the direction I wanted to go.
At least Bobby is moving instead of balking. He does respond to my legs asking him to go forward, it is just the second, third and further steps I have to worry about, trying to get him to go straight.
Fortunately he does not seem to mind the Mullen mouth snaffle as much as he did the more mobile bits. He ground it between his molars only a few times during my rides (instead of constantly), and he consented to contact just fine so long as I used my alternating legs to keep him moving FORWARD. Every once in a while he would try “dropping” the bit to whirl around but would respond to my driving legs and take up contact again. Finally today he started to give me some steps of straightness, and one time I was able to ride him on a slack rein for several steps before he tried his duck and whirl routine.
Yes, Bobby is a PONY. Stubborn, opinionated, head-strong, and determined to get his own way. Just because he is one of the cutest ponies in the world does not mean that he will cooperate with his rider. Still, between all the attempts at disobedience Bobby is fun to ride.
When it came time to try and get down I still needed someone to push my left knee into the saddle as I swung my right leg over. I will be so glad when this nerve starts working again, I used to be able to dismount from this saddle just fine.
I do not know how long it will take me to get Bobby more cooperative. However I ride him full of faith that one day he will decide he is a riding horse instead of a bratty pony and give me some good rides like he did years ago. All it take is patience, patience, more patience and a lot of persistence and stubbornness on my part. See, I am even more stubborn than the cutest pony on this planet. One day Bobby will realize this.
Have a great ride!