Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Long Day, Late Night (Lather, Rinse, Repeat)

Last night was another killer, as directly after work I rushed out to the barn to be ready for my 5:30 lesson with my trainer, and then had a college lesson to teach at 6:30. I got home earlier than on Monday (around 9 this time instead of 11) but I was still pooped and fell asleep quite easily. Waking up this morning... not so much!

I was nervous getting ready to ride because of Henry's antics on Monday night. Part of it was me being frustrated at the people in the ring, I'm sure, but his mindset of forward = FAST and slow = sideways was getting old fast. I tacked up and got on while the woman before me was still in her lesson, and my trainer told me it would be a little while since this woman's horse was acting up a bit. No problem, we could use the extra warm-up! I did some easy, forward trot circles and worked on that darn right bend, and by the time my lesson started he was feeling great - loose, calm, and listening to me.

We worked on a little bit of the lateral movements, which are getting better every day. His leg-yields are great, especially when I can get myself into the correct position. His half-pass is still coming but my biggest challenge with that and the haunches-in is keeping the bend in the correct direction. After a break we did some canter work, keeping him upright and BENDING. His canter was, as usual, lovely, but for some reason he started to goof around when we got to the corner between H-C. He would pop into the inside and break to the trot, and it seemed like he was giving a half-hearted spook maybe? Nothing tremendous, just a break in concentration that, coupled with my inability to really keep him off my inside leg, caused some trouble. After two or three of these episodes I was able to push him through that corner with a bend, but then he wanted to speed up again. He really likes the uphill canter, I think, but it's definitely hard for him to stay there for long stretches of time.

After another break we worked on some trot-halt-trot transitions, getting him really off my seat and getting him to rock back on his haunches and sort of launch himself into the trot transitions. We also did some trot-canter-trot-walk transitions so that he would start to learn to differentiate between when I was asking for a full stop, a down transition, and just a balancing half-halt (his tendency is to just STOP - think reining horse lol). This is something we will have to keep working on. From there we did a few lengthenings, which are really coming along nicely.

My main homework for this week, since we have most of what we want and are waiting for his muscles to come along to provide the carrying power he needs is as follows:

  • bending, and getting his stomach loose enough to be able to move it when and where I want it
  • keep finessing lateral work
  • get him more steady in his contact, especially with the outside rein (he tends to float in between the reins in a sort of no-mans-land)
  • trot-halt-trot transitions to encourage him to really sit and use his hind end for transitions
"We'll be here for a while" still holding strong with us, for now.

My college lesson went pretty smoothly, with the two Rusty Riders showing up early enough to catch the last few minutes of my lesson. Everyone tacked up and got on easily, and I actually think all my stressing last week about how to run the lesson and what to work on was good, since it gave me a sort of plan of attack for this week.

We worked on getting the schoolies to listen to the least possible amount of aid that was necessary to get a prompt and appropriate reaction. We worked on walk, halt, trot transitions, throwing in circles when they felt comfortable. I really tried to emphasize that you want to use a whisper of an aid first, then escalate if that's not effective, but then the next time you ask start from a whisper again, and we also worked on position - keeping their upper bodies tall with shoulders back was a lot better than last week, but some still need help with heels down, legs back stuff. I told them to imagine the magician's trick of sawing someone in half and to try to separate their bodies from the belly button. Everything above the belly button stretches up, everything below stretches down. We also worked on keeping steady, quiet, forward hands and keeping a straight line from the elbow to the bit by pulling back with the shoulders instead of the hands when going for a "whoa" aid.

After a walk break I had them all line up and do a couple of canters in each direction, and had them concentrate on their position, keeping a hold of the outside rein (the more the schoolie gets to drift in to the middle, the shorter the distance they will have to canter to get back to the end of the line!), and keeping the canter until the RIDER asked for a down transition. Most of them were great. The Ten Rides In girls needed more help, as one was bouncing around a lot, and the other couldn't (or wouldn't) get her pony to canter. Her hands are a big problem, as the minute her pony would pick up a trot and start to go faster, she would flail around and yank on his mouth. When I suggested grabbing a handful of his mane to help her stay balanced her steering went out the window. Maybe next week I will get her on another horse that she feels more stable on and that is more responsive to the aids, but she's going to have to learn to keep her hands a lot quieter.

Most of the horses weren't even warm, but I had them all walk them around the arena to cool out anyway, and one of them (the first horse I ever trained) took a nice long roll. He's such a big chunk of love, and he definitely enjoyed himself :)

Today there is a winter storm warning in effect until 10pm, and I am very tired, so I am skipping the barn tonight. If my friend is free we might hit the gym, but I don't know if I'll be motivated enough to go without her! A nap might be more what the doctor ordered...

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