Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rode All Three, and Felt Good About It Too - and Some Videos!

Yesterday was beautiful - low 70s, sunny and a bit of wind.  In contrast to other recent days, I really wanted to go to the barn in the afternoon and work with my horses.  I ended up riding all three horses, and really enjoyed it - the whole thing, from grooming, to tacking to riding.

Pie was up first - he's fine again, which is amazing considering how unwell he was for a while the previous evening (I added a video our p.m. barn lady took before I got back over to the barn to the post about his reaction to the shots - poor guy, he clearly felt awful but it cleared right up with some bute - the only time I've seen a horse look that bad was when Maisie was at another barn and had a bad impaction colic that no one noticed until things were really advanced).

But Pie felt fine, and we were able to go on a quick trail ride with Scout, since we just by chance were going out at about the same time as Scout's owner.  I kept our ride short to give him an easy work session.  We encountered a number of trail "obstacles" - I think our dense suburban environment is sometimes more challenging that a more rural trail environment.  There was the class of small children by the pond, on either side of the trail - they were carrying backpacks, and notebooks, and coats, and were right by the trail on either side.  Pie looked hard at them and we eased on by - they started to follow us and he scooted a few steps but came right back.  I've developed this most uncool habit, when he spooks or scoots, of calling out "whoa" in a shrieks-like-a-girl voice - sorry girls but I bet you know what I mean - I never used to do this, it certainly doesn't help if Pie is nervous and it really annoys me but I expect it'll go away as I become less nervous.  Anyway, we recovered from the children of doom, and then we had the "giant tractor pulling flatbed trailer with rustling brush and logs being heaved up on it" and then we had the "group of children coming out of the woods" who had to be very carefully watched and analyzed - Pie is still figuring out children and the range of their possible behaviors.  And then we had a bike come up fast from behind - he scooted and then was very nervous as it passed by, but recovered well.  He had to do a lot of shot trot sets to catch up with Scout from time to time.  I was very pleased with how he did on our ride.

Then I took out the much-neglected Dawn for a ride.  She was very good - we did some transition work and also some spiral in/out and some leg yield at walk and trot.  Considering she's barely been ridden over the past several weeks, she was very good although very forward and never as relaxed as I'd like.  There was one small scoot/spook when a farm truck drove by on the path around the pond behind her - trucks almost never drive there - but she recovered well and went right back to work.  There was a big milestone for her today - I'd set up three poles in a fan - Dawn has always had a big phobia of poles (due to some specific very bad prior experiences involving jumping) - but today she just walked over all three poles, in both directions - she did rush a bit but there was almost no hesitation and no balking/refusals to go over, which is a big first for her.  I think the fact that there were multiple poles actually helped - she couldn't worry too much about the first pole because she had to think about the whole array of three.

Drift did very well - he was very interested in being ridden - I think he's a bit jealous of Pie - and was soft-eyed and well-behaved throughout.  We worked on our figures - serpentines and circles, including some spiral in/out and leg yield, and some transitions and lengthening/shortening work.  I asked our p.m. barn lady to take some videos to compare to a video from May when he was just starting his training with me.  Please ignore the horrible posture of the person (me) in the videos.

Here's the first short video of Drifter from early May - before the Mark Rashid clinic - Drifter was just learning to soften and there's not too much consistency, but he's beginning to get the idea - he'd been ridden by me fewer than 20 times at this point, and hadn't been ridden but a few times by his prior owner for about two years prior to that, so he's not doing too bad.  The first thing I notice about this video is how tense he is, and how he's pushing on the bit and even trying to push above it from time to time - looking for the release that I'm being careful not to give him - but he's working hard on figuring it out.  I also note that he isn't really relaxed in the top line, despite the head position, and because of that and the bracing on the bit, he's using his forehand to drag himself around - the hindquarters aren't really stepping under but are trailing behind.

And here are the two very short videos our p.m. barn lady took yesterday.  Drifter was fairly distracted by the "strange" person in the arena, which introduced some inconsistency in his rhythm and softness, but I also see a lot of good things in these videos.  In part one of the video, you'll see a few steps of his very nice walk at the beginning (I think the walk tells you a lot about the horse's quality of movement and athleticism and was the first thing I noticed about Drifter when his prior owner led him out of the pasture), and a good upwards transition to trot.  There's also more evidence of relaxation - his body is much more "swingy", and although his head position isn't consistent due to his distraction, he's much more soft, with a more relaxed top line (look at the tail swinging more freely as he moves away from the camera), engaged core and much more activity in the hindquarters.  At the end of this video, when he's trotting towards the camera, I'm asking for some slight lengthening and stretching down, and he actually makes a move towards stretching out at the very end, which is big progress for him.

In part two of the video, we're doing one of our exercises involving a few steps of walk, then a few steps of trot, then a few steps of walk, and there are a number of very abrupt downwards transitions from trot to walk and trot to halt - we're still working on this and these were a bit worse than usual due to his distraction but what I like is that he's instantly responsive when I ask for the change of rhythm for a change of gait - he's really listening to me.  Smoothing out the downwards transitions won't be hard.  And at the very end he does a very nice back and looks quite pleased with himself.

And the best thing was that I thoroughly enjoyed it all - every minute - which is the first time this has happened in a long time.  I'm hoping this positive trend continues.

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