During the 10 days that Sheldon has been here I’ve letting him settle and not asking too much of him. Partly, it was an issue of time. Three hunts and Thanksgiving didn’t leave me much extra. Partly it was caution. I missed so many hunts this season that I wasn’t taking any chances by riding a new horse just then.
Mostly I’ve working with him on the ground. He was a bit anxious when he first arrived — he was weaving in his stall and didn’t want to let the other horses out of his sight. That’s pretty normal for a horse that’s been moved around a bit and he has definitely started to feel more comfortable. He is very protective of his food (he makes some wicked faces) but other than that is quite mild mannered.
Every day I’ve been grooming him, leading him around (to reinforce his ground manners and establish that he needs to listen to me) and when I have time, tacking him up and lunging him. So far he’s been a real gentleman — even when the property owner brought her three small dogs over to meet him he didn’t blink an eye/
I’ve sat on him twice. Early on, when I had some help (I didn’t want to get on him without some one on the ground to pick up the pieces), I tacked him up and had her hold him while I mounted. I had her lead him while we walked and when he was good, called it a success and quit on the high note.
Just yesterday I sat on him again. I’d been told that his response to feeling stressed was to stop and that’s exactly what he did: after I mounted and walked off he stopped dead in his tracks. I waited him out and we managed to walk around the field with a few long pauses. Certainly that’s better than bolting, bucking or otherwise misbehaving!
Today the saddle fitter came to the barn and I was pleased to find that he is almost exactly the same shape as Freedom. This means that my saddles fit him fine. They looked good to me but I always like to have Gary double check and with Sheldon I didn’t want a poorly fitted saddle to make riding uncomfortable for him.
Slowly I’ve also been introducing him to the herd. He’s getting along well with Curly over the fence (Fortune still won’t let him near) and I’ve turned him out with Freedom. I figured the two of them had bonded during the trailer ride home and neither Freedom nor Sheldon seems aggressive. Sure enough, when I turned them out together . . . they touched noses and then mostly ignored each other! Whether Freedom feels the same way when one of his “girls” is out with him remains to be seen.