Disclaimer: my horse is always good.
Of course, the definition of “good” occasionally varies… but he’s a handy little horse. He’s extremely well broke, bombproof, and has a fantastic sense of humor. He is quick to forgive (but never forgets) and willingly tries anything I ask of him. He trusts me explicitly.
Occasionally, we have days where my 25 year old thinks he’s 2 again.
Riding Nakai is not easy. It’s a constant ebb and flow of discussion. You need to cue him correctly and stay out of his way – micromanage and he throws a tanty. Half of the trouble is his anticipation. Simply put, Nakai is impatient. He forever thinks two steps ahead of me, trying to figure out what I want before I even ask. It’s taken years to feel “it” before it starts and set him up for success. I have to vary our schooling constantly (and it’s part of the reason we’ve dabbled in so many disciplines), but it’s paid off monumentally. He never blinks at a new task, and he makes the perfect babysitter for other horses. We’re the go-to team for obstacle challenges at fun shows. The more complicated and fast a task is, the happier he is to do it.
Although Nakai knows we never gallop across the church field, as soon as we hit the base he tries. With tail flagged and head dropped behind the vertical, he’ll scoot forward a couple strides, asking “yes..?” If I ask to walk, he will do so politely, sighing and trying to sneak a trot stride in here and there. When we’re out with friends and come to a fork, he’ll choose the top trail instead of their chosen bottom (or vice versa). When out on technical footing, I let him decide the best way to navigate. I know a few acquaintances who disagree with this ( i.e, “he’ll just think he can do what he wants!”) but allowing Nakai the freedom of opinion has created a well rounded partner who knows that not only can he trust me, but that I will also trust his decisions. He’s saved my ass more than a few times over the years, and he spooks only at real danger. If Nakai doesn’t want to go down a trail or past something completely ordinary, we don’t. There’s a reason, and I refuse to ruin years of trust over something small.
Every ride post-Foxcatcher has been incredible.He is so balanced and responsive to the most minute of cues. There are times I’ve barely thought of the next movement and he’s already read my mind. In some ways, he’s almost been too good. He spends his days on 24/7 turnout and when I bring him in for a ride he’s refreshed and ready for whatever I decide to that day. I don’t think he’s ever seemed so happy. He’s on a huge pasture with free choice hay and grass, and my barn owner works diligently to provide the type of grain, beet pulp, oil, and other goodies Nakai and the other horses receive based on their individual needs. It is a stark contrast from the dirt lot, two flakes of hay, and one size fits all feeding program from previous barns.
We’re tentatively planning on Muckleratz in July and then Hector in September. Muckleratz is a 25 CTR and Hector is a 35 LD endurance ride. The goal until then is to work on bettering our hydration methods and figure out what works best for him with electrolytes. I also need to work up to trotting at least 10 miles at a time. I need to lose more fluff.