Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Last day of "dressage"

Got in mid-afternoon and as tired as I was, I kicked my butt into riding at least one horse. It was a tough decision, but I figure Link could always use more time under-saddle learning to channel all that energy, whereas Cody's a much easier case (lol). Link's groundwork was ok - he was a little unfocused but - wait for it - did well (I know. I always say that. Sorry). We polished off our groundwork (on the 12' line - we haven't been doing enough regular work to play on the 22' - next week hopefully?) with some practise at trailer loading. Next week I am going to have each horse trailer-load daily - they have to all load perfectly (and preferably self-load - everyone is up to par on that except Cody yet, I always lead him in) by the end of the week. Anyways, it took maybe 10 minutes, but by the end of our ten minutes fooling around with the trailer, Link was not only loading nicely upon my first request (and this is into the end/back half of the trailer, so to him it looks a bit like there isn't enough space), but he was also standing calmly and backing out relaxedly! Huge bonus. He seems to be learning more and more to think and does not seem quite so upset anymore by the other horses leaving him or by other situations where he has to stay calm and think his way through (ie. like getting around a fence and back to his buddies). I'd like to throw him out into the hills - maybe I'll do it with him and Silver one of the days, so Link has some time to romp on his own and think through situations out in the big bad wilderness, all alone (well, with Silver - I'll keep Cody at the house though so I have a horse to retrieve the boys on) - and room to run!! One of the managers at the facility we board Link at was commenting today how much Link loves to run - I didn't realise this, but apparently Link does a lot of running about on his own ;) He certainly does more than 'necessary' here as well, and he almost always asks to run under-saddle (now just to teach him to ask more politely, hehe). I almost hate having not raced him after we solved his physical issues - he probably could have done well. It was a tough decision, knowing how much he loves to run, but I didn't feel the track life was worth the risk and that it was in his best interests emotionally (he might love that track, but the stalls and track life itself wasn't conducive to his mental/emotional well-being)

Under-saddle, we did all the usual patterns and circles in the new dressage saddle. I think I will put it away now until we return home, and take the rest of our week - our last week - on the ranch to take Link out on gallops on the trails again. He was somewhat reactive (it was a cool windy day with the odd raindrop) and high-energy but still remained pretty focused and still learned and improved. As long as we are learning and improving, even if it is in a small way some days, then I am happy. I am just happy to finally feel like I can (well, mostly) trust being on his back now, that he won't lash out at me purposely up there. Mostly. Hehe. We broke down some of the basics - sidepass, turns on the fore/hind to clean up our lateral work; we still need to clean up some of those basics more too, so we'll keep at it simultaneously with our more advanced work. As the basics clean up, so should the advanced work (ie. shoulder-ins, haunches-ins, leg yields, etc). I also had an epiphany today! Usually, when Link loses it a big and blocks me out, he runs forwards and ignores my leg during a leg yield. So instead of adding more leg (what I usually do), today I just closed my hand, so that all that impulsion he had went into responding to my leg. It was like taking the impulsion and molding it into what I was asking of him - a perfect leg yield. Brilliant! So simple I am kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier. Duh. I was so focused on his not responding to my leg, that I forgot that if he's running forwards, I can just stop him from running forwards, eh. My oh my. See? That's why I need lessons. Eyes on the ground and someone to point out obvious stuff for me (and new stuff, of course). Haha. It was beautiful - one minute he was hollow and running forwards, the next he was engaged, bent, and doing a leg yield. His canter today was a bit better, but today I asked him to canter on a straight line then brought him onto a 20m circle. He gets himself so psyched up (especially with leg aids) sometimes and this seemed to help a little. He was mostly collected but was still rushing a bit and thus would hollow when he really got to rushing. We're working on it!

Cody now consistently allows me to pet him all over when he is chowing down and even follows me everywhere...again - we're working on it ;) Simple, but progressive.

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