Friday, April 30, 2010

Back down to business

This is my attempt at getting back into blogging regularly ;) So, a brief outline of how everyone is doing, as well as future blogs I promise to publish:

Princess - Right-brain extrovert
She did not know anything about leg aids, but this little mare is brilliant. Just by using my legs as I do naturally, on all horses, she picked it up - I did not even have to really take the time out to teach her leg aids specifically, as I normally would! I have taken such time out, however it was only to further cement what she had already obviously learnt from our previous rides. She is also very keen to move off of pressure, hence the reason I believe she picked up the leg aids so easily. She already side-passes like a dream, is starting leg yields, and is moving off of my leg into the wall and such when she is spooky to the wall. She is pretty relaxed at the walk now and really stretches out her frame nicely, and her trot is starting to have less arc to the outside wall and is becoming more relaxed and rhythmic. All in time though! Her canter I have been mostly letting her pick up on her own when she feels like it, to motivate her to do it. If she does it by her own volition, then hopefully she will do it when I ask it of her as we progress ;) We do a bit when I ask too, but just short stints with lots of praise at the end, as she has a bit of a sour attitude about it for whatever reason. We also fixed some initial sourness and reluctance by switching saddles from the one she was sent down with, which was obviously pinching, and one I have that fits her alright (much better than the one she was in at least). Lastly, last week I even took her out for a short trail ride alongside another horse!! She was fantastic. Today huge gales battered the sides of the arena and snow kept sliding off the roof but as spooky as she was, she trusted me and did very well. So far we have also worked with tarps and ropes - she becomes more comfortable each time. She is extremely curious and is developing confidence and thus relaxation. Very very responsive and light!! She also stopped pacing her pen as well and is no longer pulling back when tied (though I do not tie her hard), more signs of her progressive relaxation.

Toffee - Left brain extrovert
Toffee Toffee Toffee. The little man is doing well but still has a bit of an attitude. Overall though I think I am overcoming it. We lost a lot of time initially with his being sick and today we lost another day - there was no way I was taking him into that arena with the weather the way it was - I just did not feel the benefits would outweigh the potential risk and lack of progress (or even digression) we would likely make. So I am hoping that tomorrow is a bit better weather-wise, and I will likely ask his owners to leave him with me a couple extra days so that he can get all his days in. He is pretty good but just is a bit independent - wants things his way. So it's a challenge molding him so that he wants to do what I want! We will get there though ;) He is comfortable with w/t but no leg aids or such yet, and no canter. Canter was our nemesis when he was a 2yo at the Trainer's Challenge as well - I anticipate it has to do with a lack of strength and balance (and so I have been very cautious in my asking for the canter and building him to it). I might try ponying him at the canter?? I did ask him to canter the other day, but it was on a day where he was already feeling unconfident, and I knew I was pushing him. He just picked up speed at the trot and I thought that if I could just get him to canter a couple strides along the long side of the arena, then stop him, it'd be good. He had other ideas however, and became quite resistant. Finally, he jumped from the trot...into a buck. Okay, so into several bucks. For such a little guy who needs to pick up weight, that little horse can buck!! I can usually ride it out, but not this one, not this time. He went up, I started to come off, he went up again, and I was off. I caught a lot of air and smashed down onto my right knee and left hand for an intimate discussion with the dirt. That conversation may or may not have lasted several minutes (hint: it did), my dog circling me protectively as said little horse approached me cautiously. Somehow I even have bruising on the inside of my left thigh - from the saddle? Lol! I did climb my way back up and back onto that horse for some walk and trot. He was quite jittery, but some walk and trot throughout future sessions will fix that ;) As I always say, a horse bucking is usually the rider's fault - you can't blame the horse for acting like a horse, he is simply responding. This horse is not going to make the progress a horse such as Princess will, however I am hoping I can have him comfortable with w/t/c (the canter being limited to his lack of strength and balance, so along straight lines and such) and halting/moving out based on my weight shifts, as well as very light and responsive to my hands on the reins. I think I also might move him into a bit this week - not something I usually do but perhaps appropriate in his case.

(just look at that bum! It's just made for sitting and spinning after cattle!!! Haha)

My little painted man is doing fantastic! He is developing a great stop on him, is moving off my leg fairly well, and is even up to the canter under-saddle!! He is starting to relax a little more, though sometimes it takes some liberty work on the ground first to get him to loosen up and 'let me in'. I am very pleased with his progress though and look forward to getting him into some reining patterns soon :P

(he actually looks a lot better than his photos portray, haha, it's just that I can never seem to catch a good photo of him standing proper!! Lol. We just need to lay down more topline and rip up those abs!)

Same as Cody really, Link is doing greatgreatgreat. He is loose and relaxed, engaging at the trot, and is mostly picking up the correct lead in the canter going to the right when asked within the first try or two. I tried him out in a Nurtural bitless bridle the other day though and have to admit I was rather disappointed. He was great in it and moved out mostly as usual, however I did not feel the subtler communication I had been hoping for: for example, he really had no idea I was even wiggling my fingers up there - I actually had to use arm muscle. I realise it would grow more refined as he and I get used to it...but it just was not the same. Even when we picked up the canter, rather than picking up the bit and just focusing, he really hollowed on me, like the old days. We did end up jumping in the bitless though! I had jumped him over the barrels (approx. 2') on the ground initially - it was amazing, because he usually tried to duck out in the past, and I always had to have the barrels against the wall. But since all the progress we've made, this time was different! He was so calm and jumped so easily and willingly! So, why not try it under-saddle? In a dressage saddle! Lol. He was a little unconfident, but when I just let him go and pushed him forward, he jumped very well!! I was so surprised though, he handled it so beautifully. He was cool as a little cucumber going over those jumps. We are definitely going to continue with the dressage, but I think he's ready, mentally and emotionally, to start jumping!! Luckily, the owner of the arena is going to bring in some jumps as well - bonus! End of our ride yesterday I even let one of Sonny's riders, an 11(?)yo, take Link for a good 20min or so spin. He was doing well with me and I thought he'd do well with the younger rider - he did not disappoint :) Our current 'project' though is to develop more straightness, as right now he tends to really lean to the inside on the left rein and to really grab the bit on that (non-hollow) side. We'll get there ;)

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