Hello there Smooth Riders. Goran Bockman here. Hope you did some exciting riding today and that you’re all doing well.
Gather round the campfire folks and I’ll tell you all about my and Bleikur’s (Geysir’s) further adventures.
If you haven’t yet read parts 1 and 2 you may wanna do so first.
Here are the links:
Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth! Part 1.
A jittery drive home
Let me tell you my mind was whirling, as I drove from Denmark to Sweden. Loading Bleikur onto the trailer had been surprisingly painless, but I knew what he was capable of.
I’m not ashamed to admit, I was scared of this compact 13 hh racer. All but the very bravest of you guys would have been too. Come on admit it.
A horse that easily plows thru solid fences is not going to think twice about breaking out of a trailer. So every time I heard a rumble, back in the trailer, my heart stuck in my throat.
I lost count on the number of times I had to stop and check that he hadn’t broken loose. The 8 hr journey ended well tho.
When we finally arrived at our destination, and had safely installed him in his cosy stall, I let out an audible sigh of relief. But this was to be my last day of safety, for a month to come.
A nightmare begins
Next morning my nerves had all but uncurled. A cautious optimism was my mood for the day. Yes friends, I know what you’re all thinking. What was I thinking
My only excuse is I’m an incorrigible optimist. Or should I plead insanity?
Oh and I was still only 25. I’m wiser now… I hope. Nah not really.
Now most people, I believe, tend to classify optimism as a positive quality. Little do they know! Optimism is often an accessory to manslaughter, I tell you!
Bleikur and I had a long chat,in his stall, where I laid out the law to him. Actually he was a sweet animal, from the ground at least. He even allowed me to put his head on my shoulder and he stood calmly as I was putting on his gear.
He had that cute, innocent look of the cuddly pony that people mistake Icelandics for. Had he in fact been a pony, his owners might have named him Winnie the Pooh, or maybe Paddington, he was that cute. Only with a rider on his back would his Mr Hyde side emerge.
I take it you’ve all read the classic horror story of the nice Dr Jekyll and his evil alter ego, Mr Hyde? No? Then you have a few cosy creepy hours of reading, waiting for you.
A horse quake
Bleikur stood like a statue as I mounted him. Only a slight twitching of his muscles alerted me to what was to come.
To this day I don’t know what he must have been thru to become that bundle of raw, rattling nerves.
As I gently cued him to a walk he took a few hesitant steps. A few more tentative strides and then he stopped, frozen to the spot.
Any sane person would have dismounted, when Bleikur began to quake, but then I never did claim sanity, did I? Like I said, I’m an incurable optimist!
Add to that, my earth moving love of horses and you may understand why I just sat there, waiting for the inevitable eruption!
And erupt he did. He just may have set a new world record, of acceleration, right there. My head was thrown back, like it was hit by a cannonball.
Again I was adrift, in a raging storm, as Bleikur bolted for all he was worth. I had read somewhere that cueing for more speed could help you regain control of the horse so I tried that. Sadly my horse had missed out on that part so no deal.
Scared to death, but thrilled
All round Bleikur was one of the fastest horses I ever rode. Part of my boiling brain took time out to be thrilled silly. His sheer power, going from full to double speed, was truly overwhelming!
In Iceland this hyper explosive type of horse is often named “Geysir”, you know this tall ray of hot water that, intermittently, erupts from the ground.
Again the cool, observing, part of my brain made a decision. I really would rename this raging ride, Geysir. I was so darn impressed with him, it all but drowned out the fear in me.
We were fast approaching the heavily trafficked main road, and heart-stopping fear was called for.
A no brakes horse-quake
I had learned, from my ride, in Denmark, that this ‘horse quake’ simply had no brakes on him. For that reason I didn’t even attempt pulling on the rains.
That lack of action may have saved both our lives. Had he been occupied with struggling against the reins, tossing his head right and left, he might have, fatally misjudged the speed of the fast oncoming car!
As it was, the car just missed us by a hands breadth. I glimpsed shear shining terror, in the driver’s eyes, as he flew past us. I’m confident he saw the same, reflected in mine.
A God awful, awesome horse
Bleikur didn’t even slow down for a split second. Again there was this weird pride sneaking up on me. What a God awful, awesome horse I had bought for myself!
I’m not sure I actually did laugh (a madman’s shrill laughter I suspect), but I sure felt like it!
Like a warm spring morning
You know that bubbly thrill that grips you on the first warm morning of spring. When the sun is blazing from a clear sky, and all bird-kind is tuning into the ringing jubilation of nature.
That’s how I felt, jubilant and so intensely alive, as only the narrowest escape from death can make you feel.
Why did I go on?
Those of you who have so kindly followed my fearsome first steps into the Gaited Horse world must wonder; how come I continued?! Right?
I’ll take your silence as a yes my friends. Well “intensely alive” is a major part of the answer. I’m probably a type A person, who only feels fully alive in the presence, or at least in the vicinity, of death.
Wow that was a drastic way of putting it, but there’s much truth to it. Another crucial part is of course the smooth gait, whether that be a Running Walk, or a Rack, or Tolt.
Hooked on Tolt and danger
I was hooked on Tolt already and the thrill of mortal danger only added to my fascination.
Bleikur galloped for a mile or so longer, but I sensed he was calming down. Adjusting my seat, I straightened up in the saddle and, wow there it was!
Looked something like this.
As if on cue, he broke off the canter, and just flowed into the sweetest, smoothest Tolt! The speed remained the same, but the knee action got much higher.
This was the first time he had offered anything but a fast gallop or a walk. The thrill of his super smooth Tolt totally enraptured me.
Bleikur had become Geysir now, my pride and joy, and I loved him to death already!
A huge smile glued to my face, I just sat drop dead still in the saddle, so as not to disturb Geysir’s perfect 4beat.This frviends is the meaning of bliss!
Geysir went back to school
Don’t worry friends; I’ll not bore you with the gory details of one month’s NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Finally, after countless, narrow, escapes from death I had had enough!
Geysir was going back to school. IF he had indeed been broken in, he must have played hooky two thirds of the time.
Lesson 1 a catastrophe
Geysir had no skills yet, but lunging seemed a good place to start. He disagreed and broke loose, leading me on a four hour long, wild goose chase.
That ended with him bogged down in a swamp.
Important lesson learned was that running away could end in catastrophe. After that Geysir never again bolted with me.
Starting from the beginning
I decided to start over, right at the beginning. We went over all the phases of breaking a horse in.
Leading, on a halter, and stopping on cue, took us a week to perfect. To stop and remain standing calmly was the problem.
Horses are flight animals, true, but Geysir was extreme.
When forced to stand still, he was so jittery you’d think he grew up among Zebras, on a Lion infested savannah.
So our progress was slow in the beginning, but I was in no hurry. The Tolt he’d showed me was well worth waiting for.
It was already clear to me that I had a first rate horse on my hands.
Never pull back on the bit.
Accepting the bit was the next possible stumbling block. When riding him I avoided putting any pressure at all on the bit.
It was just there, in his mouth. The reins weren’t even attached to it, but to a light halter, worn underneath the bridle.
After a couple weeks I fastened them to the halter and the bit both. Still I never pulled back on the bit.
When I finally fastened reins to the bit, Geysir had already learned to stop, on seat and thigh cues alone.
Six weeks after bringing him to Sweden we won our first competition, the basic dressage program, at the Nordic Championships in Norway. I couldn’t have been happier had it been the Grand Prix.
Geysir helped me develop my training module.
After training Geysir I have used the same method on all the horses I break in.
It produces a horse that’s feather light on the bit and also extremely responsive to the weight shift cues.
This is exactly how I want my horses. It also makes them easy to ride for inexperienced riders.
Given his extreme willingness (10/10) Geysir always remained a one man horse tho.
To me he was the Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth!