A big week for Roach, receiving his first saddle.
With the cooler weather on Monday, everyone was feeling a bit fresh, so we spent some time reviewing our previous groundwork exercises so that saddling would go smoother later in the week.
On Wednesday, Roach received his first saddle. It went about as I expected. While he had no problem with the saddle pad being tossed willy-nilly upon his back, he was a bit worried about the saddle, which isn't uncommon. He did put on a good show initially when he felt the cinches grab him once he began to move his feet. On the first day of saddling, I don't mind if they buck. It gives them the chance to see that it doesn't have the effect of getting rid of the saddle as they would hope & gives me a chance to see what their "big" reaction is upfront versus on the 5th ride.
After some time moving around in the round pen, he got turned loose in the arena to get used to wearing the saddle for the afternoon. Upon catching him again, he was a bit reactive when asked to move out around me, but he was able to work through it. He was nervous about the noise the lead rope made sliding across the saddle & a bit worried about the noise of my stick bouncing against the saddle. He really didn't have much reaction to me flapping the stirrups. Once he was more comfortable with the sounds & sensations, we unsaddled before it got too dark.
On Thursday, he still wanted to get a bit reactive & buck when I first sent him off. After the first initial saddle, I'll do my best to redirect them to discourage the bucking & bring their mind back to me & what I'm asking.
Friday, he got to graduate from the colt saddle to the "good" saddle. We spent a fair bit of time putting the saddle on & off so that he could be more comfortable with that step. He did buck a bit at first but came back to me much quicker than the previous two days. I also introduced Run Up & Rub. The exercise is just as it sounds. I expected more of a reaction from Roach due to the quicker movements, but he didn't feel the need to leave me.
Today, he did better & was able to walk around me once saddled without getting reactive, but once he picked up the trot, he started bucking. We spent today's session saddling, cinching up, unsaddling, pulling the saddle off, putting it back on, & cinching back up. By the end of the session, he was no longer reacting to the cinches through tightness or bucking. Progress.
I would have liked to have done our first ride this weekend, but he still has moments of reactivity. I would also like to see him get a bit more comfortable about the saddle, so that's not a factor once I'm on him. We'll see how tomorrow goes, but I'm likely going to wait until next Friday or Saturday for that first ride so that we don't create a poor association by trying to rush.
Overall, he's gotten much more confident & sure of himself & when he's not, he looks to me to help him through it - most of the time.
Next week's update will be posted on Saturday.