Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Weekend Rides

 Getting to ride again after two weeks off was a nice experience for both Dusty and myself.  After the initial meet and greet and “where’s my treat?” we had a nice weekend together.  Our first ride was basically a return to softening and bending to reestablish what she already knows and make her feel good about herself.  Dusty’s winter coat is coming in and even though the weather was on the cool side she did work up a sweat after only twenty minutes or so.  We did a little trot in both directions, some figure eights, some lateral work at the walk and called it quits, ending on a good note for our first day.

Our second day was a little more interesting and we accomplished more than the previous day.  We worked all the same things from the day before, doing patterns at the trot etc.  It was also a day to work on my position. Although I know what I’m supposed to be doing I sometimes slip back into old habits. This is why it’s so helpful to have a knowledgeable person on the ground.  One of my bad habits is stiffening my arms and back and losing the bend at my elbow. I was trying not to let the reins get slack and loopy like a piece of spaghetti, but while following her mouth with my hands it was difficult to keep my arms from stiffening up.  The best fix for this is to loosen up by not having your thumbs turned up to the sky in a fisted hand but bent in at about a 45-degree angle with the reins held more gently. Once I changed my hand position it loosened my whole upper body and made following her head much easier.  Dusty has such a lot of movement with her head it’s very hard to not fix the rein to try and control her bobbing head. The whole idea is to follow the movement even if you feel like you’re whole body is moving too much. It didn’t take long to get back to the right way of going with a little practice.

After all of our basic fixes, hers and mine, we decided to try a canter in each direction.  I always like to start off with her worst direction, which is to the left.  We got the bend and I asked for the left lead, of course she got the wrong lead right off.  As we continued on for a few steps she popped up on the straight line and did a flying lead change, woo hoo!  Unfortunately, she was still cross cantering behind. This is really uncomfortable; I felt like a jack-in-the-box on a pogo stick and asked her to whoa, which she did immediately.  I was proud of her for stopping on cue; in the past she might have kept on going.  She still gets very excited at the canter but with more practice and balance I’m sure she’ll be fine.  The canter to the right started with a perfect step off and a nice pace. Dusty still has this little tea cup canter that she must have learned way back when she had western lessons before she was mine.  Someday she will have the longer ground-covering canter that I want but for now this is fine.  I remember when we started the trot exercises she had the little western jog trot and now she’s really tracking up and her paces are adjustable.  She’s come a long way and I’m proud of her for being such a willing and smart student.

All horses need time, time and more time to learn and adjust to the way of going that is correct for what you, the rider, want them to do for their particular discipline.  There’s no way around taking the time and having the patience to do it right.  She may never be perfect because of her conformation but at least she will be going as well as she can for her body type and her muscles will be developed correctly. We’ve already seen a lot of improvement in her muscles and have been surprised by how well she can now track up from behind into her front hoof prints; we didn’t think she had it in her, but this is what happens with a supple horse whose frame is relaxed and rounded and as it should be.

Until next time

Quote for Today 
Just knowing we have both learned something when I have finished riding is enough for me!

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