Monday, June 1, 2009

Looks like a good day to ride

Hard Twist, 3yo QH gelding...looking great after losing those winter fuzzies and filling out with some muscle! The second photo, above, is of him rendezvous-ing with Sunny, whom I hadn't kicked out of the paddock yet.

Sunny, investigating my saddle. On of my June horses belonging to the neighbour of the property where Twist's owner keeps some of his horses. He's a registered Paint gelding, about 8 or 9 years old, in for a tune-up...aka ground work and some miles under-saddle.


The yearling colt I've dubbed Pip. He's a Welsh x Arabian, a brother to the filly behind him. He was unfortunately injured as a foal when he went over backwards - too bad, especially considering he is such a looker!

One of the cute little pony fillies chilling with Twist. This one's cute as a button, but not very tame yet.

The one out front is boss mare, believe it or not! She's about half the size of the little 3yo Twist, yet she rules the roost around there! I call her Nubs due to her lack of ears. She's very assertive, but pretty cute and very laid back!

The 2yo Welsh x Arabian mare, sister to my favourite little guy Pip (pictured with the little pony filly with the wide blaze).

May 31
Vaccination and Spring Fling potluck day at the barn today! I volunteered to help vaccinate horses - it's surprising the number of individuals with horses who cannot vaccinate their own horses or who are not aware of the basics of vaccinations such as where to vaccinate, which shots to give and why, or the no-no's associated with vaccinating (such as riding your horse immediately afterwards). What we had originally hoped to take only a couple of hours turned into an all-day affair; individuals trickled into the arena (where we set up to do vaccinations) with their horses throughout the day, despite the 12-1pm start plan we had been aiming for. This pushed the potluck down to later (particularly for the two of us vaccinating) and meant I was out there all day rather than home studying as I had hoped to be! Oh well though ;)

First thing in the morning I was out working with Link so that I would be finished with him around the time we were to start vaccinations. It had been a few days since I rode him last and so he was pretty hot; he'll have to wait a week here for more work as I throw everything into studying for my exams that I write/perform this Friday and Saturday. Plenty of time for riding after the exams are written! I've also been hunting down dressage coaches, trying to find one that will come out to the barn for lessons - wish me luck! So far it's been quite the challenging process, as there seem to be few; the ones that are available request that you haul in and also pay really high lesson fees (as in, $110/hr).

He was pretty reactive and explosive when I first commenced ground games with him, so, after rolling my eyes as he once again bolted during an attempt at the figure-8 pattern (note: "attempt" lol), I actually resigned myself to only doing groundwork with him. Hey, I would have bolted too. Never know when those little puny orange cones are going to leap out at you and rip your hide off its bones. So anyways, after a few miserable attempts at the figure-8, I took him to the circling game, during which, of course, he bolted. Surprise surprise. This time though I pushed him to stay at the canter (read: gallop) when he wanted to stop, then asking for more canter in either direction. Everyone say hello to reverse psychology. And boy does it work! Within a few minutes (and several deep breaths on his part, encouraged by me) he was content to just trot, though I kept him on a 10' or so circle at first, asking for transitions and such so as to regain his focus. Next, we took on the weave pattern at the trot, on both sides and he did beautifully (even on his right side!), so we re-attacked our figure-8 pattern at the trot...little hot but he did it pretty much flawlessly...around the killer cones. He was calm enough after all our games (30 minutes worth) that I felt he could indeed handle some under-saddle work, so we tacked up.

Under-saddle I could feel he was pretty excited. I took him down the long side of the arena at a walk and got him working on some circles at the trot at the far end of the arena. 5 minutes or so and he was relaxed and calm, even switching direction on figure-8's with a relaxed and rounded frame without throwing up his head through the change in direction. The rest of the session we did, at the trot, serpentines with circles, circles along the centerline down the arena, leg-yield (walk), and 20m circles. The 20m circles were the most challenging for him, but we finished with him in a rounded frame rather consistently. We also trotted down the long sides of the arena, with balancing circles at the top prior to trotting down, and I had him engaging himself several strides at a time, on the straight line. Lastly, in between some relaxation we tackled some sitting trot, which of course requires a softer rounder trot out of him (pretty good) and finally some canter as well. His canter was somewhat rough and he had a tough time picking up that right lead, but we did get it, and rather rounded at that. It was probably our best session yet, despite the challenges at the beginning, and there was even another rider (nice and quiet) in the arena working with us! Not only did he greatly improve over the session (at engaging from behind, relaxation, suppleness, etc), as usual, but I had the softest hands I have ever had with him. I maintained him on a short to sometimes long-ish rein, but very very very light. It was pretty neat to be able to communicate together so well with such light contact - I finally fully felt like how Mette Rosencrantz had described, in her clinic, a dressage rider's hands to be - "light on the steering wheel, merely relaxed and lightly guiding, while your legs do most of the work". I can picture her demonstration on the ground and I finally felt this session like we had it, which was pretty awesome! As I always say, still a long ways to go, but we're progressing and having a blast doing so! What a great horse, and he even stood nicely for his vaccinations (two pokes and a syringe up the nose for strangles!).

June 1
Check out all the photos from today (above)! I took several snapshots (okay, more than several, hehe) of the little herd Twist is in with, including one of which I am to start, and also of Sunny, the paint I am to tune-up over June.

Twist did fantastic today, especially considering it was blowing and threatening to storm our entire session. He was somewhat reactive, as usual, but I had expected worse today actually (due to the weather). Mustachio had other ideas of being caught but was all-in-all actually pretty willing to be caught in the end. Saddling up he was spooky but ok, and we ripped through all our games pretty quickly. The reactiveness showed up most playing the driving game on his right side, but we finished with him moving around rather relaxed. His left side is tough too because he tries to just move his hindquarters around towards me to move MY feet away from his front end, rather than just moving his front end over. His circling game continues to greatly improve on his left side though, to the point where I sort of zoned out as the trotted around me, then came to to realise he'd done several laps of trot calmly and successfully, on his 'bad' side (the left side)! On previous occasions it has been at times difficult to get full laps on that side, particularly if he is spookier than normal (read: more velocoraptors lurking in the woods) that day. He didn't really have any objection to my standing at his side today, and neither when I stood in the stirrups; I mounted up (without swinging my leg over) three times each side before finally swinging my leg brush the opposite stirrup. Oh shit! The raptor's beneath me and attacking my right stirrup! Well, that's what Twist must have thought, anyways. Because he immediately humped up, scooted his bum underneath him, and jumped around a little. To his credit, no actual bucks though. After really thinking the situation through (whilst hopping about) though he realised he was - surprise surprise, still alive, and so stopped, standing frozen a minute or so to make sure the raptor had truly disappeared. This was about the time I quietly slid my right foot in the stirrup so that I would have a better seat should he decide to pop around again. I ask, how is it that I always only ever have one foot in the stirrup when Twist goes to...well...twist?? Yea, I'm rolling my eyes at myself too. Anyways, while Twist hasn't quite seemed to grasp the concept of halting yet (I've been sort of bending him to a stop...I say sort of, because he's not fully bent, just enough to sort of turn his head and ask him to stop moving forward), but he seems to be catching on a little. That and back-up and also bending his head around to my leg. He's a little too nervous yet though to keep his feet still, which is why the former give him a little trouble. He moves out nicely though! He seems to understand that rider lifts energy up in saddle+little squeeze+cluck = forward movement, to the point where he was soon moving forward when I simply lifted my energy in the saddle. Helps though that he wants to move forward in the first place! I have to admit that the first few rounds of the pens, I had my right hand on the horn a good, oh I dunno, 100 percent of the time...yea right about there. Lol ;) Despite any trepidation though he never bucked, or even humped or hopped, or any version thereof, at all throughout our ride (after those initial ones previously mentioned, of course). We toured the pens in either direction a number of times, to the point where I released my death-grip on that horn to guide him fully with two hands (he's so soft and responsive!) and he was walking about with a lowered head whilst licking his chops and chewing for me. A few moments where he was tense here and there and the odd bum-scoot-beneath-him, but that's it! I actually felt confident enough to take him out into the nearby fields, but convinced myself to save that treasure (lol) for tomorrow. Very proud of the little guy, as he was very relaxed and responsive rather early in our ride. He is very willing and doesn't fight with you at all about path. He's definitely scared at times, but is willing to invest trust in his rider/handler and seems to just want to please. Also, today was the first time I untacked him and he neglected (read: forgot? Haha just kidding) to spook at the saddle when I pulled it off. He stood quietly throughout the entire untacking process and allowed me to quietly slide the saddle off without a care in the world, in lieu of spinning out from beneath it as it came off and facing it, blowing hot air through his big nostrils. Pretty good, pretty damn good job, little horse. Thank-you.

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