Learning to train Faxx

The mosquitoes are awful and between helping my parents pack to move on Saturday, running errands and rain on Sunday, Faxx did not get ridden over the weekend.

So I rode him last night for probably the first time in a week.  His challenge, like Fling and Faeryn’s, is to get stronger behind, particularly the right hind, and also become more supple, especially to the right. Marie’s prescription is much bending and change of direction work for his suppleness, plus a lot of head-to-the-wall leg yields, (which Faxx really hates), turns on the haunches and haunches in to help strengthen his right hind.

When Faxx finds something hard to do, his first reaction is to drop the contact entirely and get behind the leg and if that doesn’t work to make me stop making him work hard, he will next resort to ‘bouncing’ up and down. It is not at all like rearing – it is just that his trot gets super uneven. It is frustrating and really difficult to ride, but I’ve finally learned I cannot let him stop – that rewards him for the behavior. I just have to sit and keep insisting that he at least TRY to do what I am asking him to do. It is really hard to do, but last night we really made progress. When he would try and drop contact, I’ve gotten more assertive about pushing him forward. I also have learned to accept a few good steps and give him a break – BUT he only gets a break after he’s made an honest effort. If he backs off of contact or gets uneven, I keep after him – no matter how difficult – until he takes at least a few good steps. Shoulder in has definitely gotten easier, but the half pass to the right is still very difficult beyond the first step or two. Marie pointed out that he really needs to get stronger in the right hind for a truly successful half pass. So I’m concentrating on that, and throwing in just a few steps of half pass to the right occasionally.

Training Faxx is vastly different from training his half siblings, Fling and Faeryn. I think it mostly has to do with the difference between mares and geldings, and less about Faxx’s individual personality. The mares seem to have a much higher tolerance for the ‘pressure’ in training. As in, if they do not understand something, or if something is difficult for them, they will try to do it, and have more tolerance for longer periods of difficult work. With Faxx, I have learned to do shorter ‘bursts’ of the more difficult work, then back off and let him back into his ‘comfort zone’ for awhile before revisiting the more demanding work. For example, with the ‘girls,’ I would start out doing leg yield along the wall and do the entire long side. And they handled that well, even if they struggled occasionally. With Faxx, when I’ve asked him to do that, he is a basket case by the time we get halfway through. It also may have something to do with him being bigger, and maybe that makes it more difficult for him. But I’ve learned to go for a few steps, then let the pressure off, then pick it up again. Over time, he can get to the point where he can do the entire long side, or whatever. But I have to ‘sneak up’ on him with it.

In other news, I am getting very antsy and excited about my new trailer’s arrival – around mid-September. I am NOT excited about having to pay on it for 4 years, but I’ve been saving money as fast as I can before the delivery date and estimate I will have to finance about half of it. And hopefully I can get it paid off in less than 4 years.

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