Hello Dr. Deb, I'm writing back with a rather different sort of reply than I initially thought I would be.
Shortly after your last reply, the owner of this gelding fell off him. I wasn't there to witness it, I just heard her account of it afterward. She said she asked the horse to trot, and he trotted calmly and rhythmically down the long side of the arena but tripped at the end. She said he then sped up and after a couple strides took up into a canter, at which point she fell off (she has never cantered on a horse. She rarely does more than walk).
What I think actually happened is the horse tripped, sped up as any horse will to regain his balance (and especially as this horse tends to do) and the owner got pitched forward. When she pitched forward, her lower leg came back/she gripped on with her leg and the horse interpreted that as a request for canter.
This horse certainly knows the difference between when I get in the saddle and when his owner rides. He is extremely aware of her and I've often witnessed him "come from the other side" to help her out (often times this means *not* doing something until she asks correctly, especially when that something is asked in a way that may other horses would panic about), or act in a way that tells me he understands that she is not as able-bodied a rider and thus needs more care. But with all the work I have been doing with him to make him more understanding of the leg, I'm wondering if I'm actually doing more harm than good in educating him, knowing that as long as his owner has him, she will rarely do more than groom, pet and get on and walk.
Since she fell off, the gelding has been more hasty in his canter transitions and his upward transitions in general. I have no doubt that the rider coming off can be traumatizing for a horse. He's gone back to being more stuffed up and when he does go, it's more explosive and anxious than previously. I use the term "explosive" loosely: he does not truly explode, but he certainly is anxious about the increase in energy and I feel it must be related to experiencing his owner come off.
How would you advise I proceed? He's been slowly getting better, but I do not want to make this horse unsafe for his person or confuse the poor gelding.
Last edited on Thu Aug 10th, 2017 07:57 pm by Redmare