Thursday, August 4, 2011

One Thing At a Time

I didn't have a huge amount of time to ride today, and so that had the beneficial effect of making me focus on exactly the one thing I wanted to accomplish with each horse - all three of my rides were short but intense.

Drift was up first, and my objective with him was simply for him to transition to trot without any balking, easily and willingly - from walk, from halt, from back - immediately, at any point in the ring, and regardless of how much we might have been relaxing up to the point I asked for trot.  The first time I asked for trot, he started to balk - but I was prepared this time!  I was carrying my pink "encourager" - a short crop with a broad head.  Before he actually balked, I slapped my leg with the crop, twice, as a secondary aid (I didn't up the leg pressure since I want him to move off a whisper of pressure) and off we went into trot.  After that, no problem - in fact I dropped the crop on the ground as it clearly wasn't necessary - his trotting was immediate, every time, on my just changing the rhythm in my mind and very slight leg pressure, and he did some nice lengthenings.  Good Drift!

Dawn was next.  My objective with her was for her to soften at the trot consistently.  In order for her to do this, I needed her to use her hindquarters and engage her core more effectively - if she's heavy on my hands it means she's not using herself correctly.  To get her to do this, we did lots of transitions - trot/walk/trot, halt/trot, back/trot - asking for softness in both the upwards and downwards transitions.  All was very good.  As we were trotting, I noticed a man getting out of his car with what looked like a brown paper grocery bag - fine, I thought, he's going to his vegetable garden to harvest some produce (the community gardens are right next to the arena).  Next thing I know, Dawn and I are trotting in a nice forward, soft trot down the long side of the arena when he takes his (supposed) grocery bag - it turns out it was actually a large lawn waste bag - and shakes it out hard, making a loud snapping, cracking noise, directly behind Dawn.  Dawn did what Dawn does - this is why I don't ride her on the trail, as she's extremely reactive - she bolted and then bucked several times before I got her to stop.  My butt stayed glued to the saddle and I didn't lose either stirrup (Dawn's got a substantial buck) and I kept riding - she stopped pretty quickly when I asked.   I haven't ridden a buck in years, so I felt pretty good about it - my older daughter says I was just lucky and I'm sure she's right but I'll take all the luck I can get.  This is the first time in several years of riding Dawn when she's done anything like this, and I don't really blame her considering the sort of horse she is.  It took her a few minutes to regain her concentration and then we went back to work and finished well.  I led her over towards the gardens when we were done, and asked the gardener to hold up his bag - Dawn looked and went "ho, hum".  I'm going to keep riding Dawn because she's a great horse (but not on the trail), but as Mark Rashid said at the clinic, she's "not an easy ride".  She's my black diamond horse, and we've already come a long way together.  Good Dawn!

Pie was next - my objective with him was no slow steps, ever - I needed forward to get softening.  I carried my pink "encourager" and used it to slap the saddle when he attempted to slug at the walk or trot  - at one point his trot was vigorous enough that he tried to break to the canter.  His softening work at the walk was good; we also did some backing.  Trotting was good as well as soon as he had enough forward - we got our 11 soft steps in both directions at the trot, and some good trot/walk and trot/halt transitions as well.  Good Pie!

Oh, I forgot to mention that I had an appointment with my orthopedic doctor today - he says some aches and pains in my shoulder, upper back and arm are to be expected, especially with the broken ribs still healing.  My collarbone is healing up well and the joint looks very good.  He says he usually needs another follow-up appointment and has patients do physical therapy, but that I'm doing my own physical therapy by using my arm and shoulder normally, including riding and all the other barn work - I just need to work on extending my arm in all directions, particularly upwards - so no more appointments required.  It'll be 8 weeks on Saturday, and I'm glad to being doing so well at this point.

It was a very good day with horses.

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