Woody is my guest horse. The horse I can put a rank beginner on, and know they'll be safe. But he's also the most advanced horse, if you know how to ask him for his skills.
But beginners get on him, pull the reins across his neck like they're riding a horse out of a western movie, and fail to ask him to be honest. After several rides, he starts to get undone. And then I have to get on him and remind him of his skills.
We started with circles. I swear, and I'm not exaggerating, I can canter a circle around a cone on this horse and you'd swear it was a perfect circle. Go ahead, use a string and his hoof prints will mark a perfect radius from that cone. All done in a soothing, easy to ride, slow canter. Most that ride him can't get him to canter, because he won't canter if he doesn't feel you balanced on him. But with me, he gets into the canter right away.
His trot is awful. I mean, rough, a definite post of trot required. And when I ride him often, we don't trot. We go to canter from the walk. But with him out of tune with me, we had to bump through the trot to get to canter until he warmed up.
His stop was sloppy. So we worked on that a lot, and did a lot of backing up. Probably a few hundred yards worth if I added it all up. That's the first thing to go on him, and the last thing to come back. But it's so important, I really work him doing that.
He was reining well, so no problems there. Nice and soft everywhere. Yielded front and rear well. Side passed incredibly well.
He was popping his head up, one of his weaknesses. Every head lift was met with bit pressure and a release when he lowered his head. Beginners always let him get away with that.
Then the walk back to the barn...oh brother. I hate a horse that gets too energetic headed back to the barn. It took us half an hour to travel the last 100 yards to the barn, I kid you not. I circled him to a stop, backed him up repeatedly, and just worked him unless he was walking calmly, head down and flexed at poll, back to barn. After a lot of work, and several deep sighs from both of us, we finally managed to get back to the barn in a relaxed manner. Mind you, he's never out of control, and beginners don't even notice that he's high-stepping back to the barn, but I don't like it because I know it doesn't represent his best behavior. When I first got him, I worked for about 2 months to try to keep him from "jigging" on the way back to the barn. His previous owner thought it was pretty how he raised his legs so high and "pranced" back to the barn. But I knew it was just extra energy and an improper mind-set that was the issue.
Woody's a great old horse, but like a lot of them, he can get undone with the wrong kind of riding and if he isn't kept honest. Woody's faults are: loses his stop, picks his head up too high at times, and can be too energetic going back to the barn. But he tunes up quickly, and I hope to get him back into the shape I know he's capable of, with a few more rides.