The “zen” of Faxx

As I think I’ve mentioned before, Faxx is the most talented – and the most challenging – horse I’ve had in awhile. Faxx is not challenging because he is naughty. Far from it. Faxx is a good boy. He is challenging just because he is big, and he’s gotten almost too wide for me. Instead of being able to sit ‘into’ him and really get my legs around him – these days I feel like I am merely sitting ON him, which is sort of a precarious feeling! (That’s what happens when you have a 28-inch inseam!)

He is also challenging because he is a huge mover. I have had many horses over the years, and several warmbloods, but it was a whole new learning curve with Faxx, even getting the hang of riding his POSTING trot. I’ll never forget the first time I rode him at Rick Urban’s while he was being started. I was huffing and puffing after about 5 minutes! Faxx’s trot – even posting – is better than most ab machines!

And, here’s the triple threat – he’s been reluctant to truly take contact with the bit. Now, that said, he’s come a very, very long way. When I first started asking him to take contact, he would either throw his head straight up in the air, or tuck his chin to his chest. There was really very little in-between.

Nowadays, most of the time, the only hint you get about his true feelings for contact occurs during the free walk. That’s when he’ll drop the contact, chomp the bit, swing his head around, etc. etc.  So far the best way to cope with that is to just keep pushing him forward.

In order to be able to sit his trot, he has to be connected, through and accepting the bit. That has been a long process – and a long process for me to learn the best way to achieve this.

I have discovered that my position makes a huge difference in how he goes – more so than with any horse I’ve had.  Here are the “MUSTS”:

  • Must sit up very straight with pelvis slightly tilted forward. He has a ‘sweet spot’ in his back and my seatbones MUST be on that sweet spot and NOT MOVE.
  • I must LOOK UP. If I drop my head even an inch, it affects the position of my seatbones.
  • I must look, unfocused, straight ahead – what Sally Swift called ‘soft eyes.’
  • I must BREATHE.
  • I must give the reins as much as possible — it can be just one rein and not both, but I must give the reins, especially after a half halt.
  • I must really try to keep him on my seatbones and ride him more from seatbones and less from hand, especially in downward transitions and absolutely required when asking for halt.
Sometimes I feel like I should add ‘chant Yoga mantra” to the above list….like OHM OHM OHM. Who knows, it might help. Except for that ‘no voice’ rule…. 😉

If I ride him as described above, I can keep him reliably connected and his trot is not hard to sit. I still have periods where I just have to post a few strides here and there. It will be interesting to see how our First level rides go this weekend when I have to sit the entire test!

And an interesting note about Faxx and relaxation. When I am posting at the trot, and he is really ‘in the groove’ and happy and just trucking along, I will hear this ‘clack clack clack’ noise. It’s his teeth hitting together. He is not GRINDING his teeth – but he gets so relaxed, his jaw muscles relax so much that his jaw becomes so loose, it just bounces along in time with his trot. Years ago I had another horse, also a half Arabian, who did this. His name was Frostfire, and I showed him a lot of Arabian hunter pleasure rail classes. I knew he was really ‘in his groove’ when I would hear that noise. So far Faxx hasn’t done it at sitting trot – probably because he’s not to the point where we’re both super relaxed about that!

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