Monday, September 20, 2010

Dusty's Most Excellent Weekend

' Dusty '
Dusty and I added some new training movements to her repertoire this weekend and I can only say she was in excellent form.  Where to begin?  Well, the first thing we’ve got to clear up:“will the real Dusty please stand up and identify herself ?”  The new and improved Dusty that was most likely hatched from an alien pod sometime Friday night has been absolutely brilliant this weekend. It could be her new shoes, the new sand footing with no rocks, the stupendous training she’s been receiving or perhaps a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.

As usual we always start with walking, softening and bending.  We’ve added serpentines and leg yields to her warm up to mix it up and get her focused.  In my opinion, all the softening and bending work we did for months at the walk has really helped her and I think all horses can benefit from this type of work. It takes a long time but the end result it well worth the effort.

Instead of starting with her fast choppy jog-trot she has decided that a longer frame with an even pace is the way to go for her comfort (I’m sure she’s not worrying about mine.)  For the past two weekends she has been softening, tracking up and coming softly onto the bit of her own accord. She feels like an entirely different horse when she’s like this, and I’m told she looks as graceful as a carousel horse.

This weekend we worked on her canter, which is not one of her best natural gaits just yet. I’m happy to report that she got the correct lead in both directions, a big accomplishment for her, especially to the left.

Normally with her left lead, when we try to circle, she will spiral into the center of the ring like water going down the drain regardless of proper steering.  It was time to try a different approach; instead of circling I let her go straight down the long side of the arena.  It wasn’t pretty, but there was no spiraling.  Until she balances herself more, I think we may have to accept her head going to the outside, shoulder inside and butt who knows where. I’m trying to counter this effect by opening the outside rein, using an indirect inside rein behind the wither and pressure at the girth with my inside leg. With more practice I think she will find her balance and her muscles will begin to strengthen and conform to the right way of going.

The right lead (her good one) was much more confident, balanced and comfortable. Of course, coming down the long side she was picking up speed and I’m thinking she may have decided a nice gallop was in order. Or she may have been trying to terrorize Molly, our Australian Shepherd, who decided to park herself on the rail and refused to move for the entire lesson.  In any case, after we had a conversation about this she relented and came back to a normal pace. We didn’t over-do the canter, just once around in each direction.

Dusty was also introduced to lengthening her trot today. First we started by having a nice even pace at the working trot. Then by opening the inside rein to take her head gently to the inside, she would soften and relax her neck, lower her frame and come onto the bit; from there I’d simply ask for more trot while allowing her a little more rein and she lengthened beautifully.  After a few steps, I’d use a light half halt on the outside rein and bring her back to the working trot. She got it in both directions.  Smart girl!

My philosophy is:  if you get it mostly right, end on a good note for that exercise. I don’t believe in drilling a horse over and over until I’m satisfied; there’s always tomorrow and I like to reward a good effort right away, leave my horses feeling good about their accomplishments and give them time to think it over.

We ended with that; I dropped the reins and let her meander around the ring. She took herself over to my daughter for a treat and then she circled the arena once, marched over to the mounting block, parked herself there and looked back at me, as if to say, “That’s it, you’re done for the day.  Get off!”

Until next time

Quote for Today
Correction does much for the horse, but encouragement does more.

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