Today was a big day for Dawn and me. For those of you who have reasonably quiet horses and who routinely canter in the arena and even on the trail, what Dawn and I did today may seem like not much, but for us - at least for me - it was big progress. Today we cantered - the first time we've cantered since last May at the Mark Rashid clinic. That canter work last May wasn't much - we really weren't comfortable enough with each other at that point to canter effectively. As Mark said, Dawn is "not an easy ride", and she's a horse who prefers to travel at speed and tends to work herself up as she goes. She's only bolted and bucked (there's almost always bucking if there's bolting) with me once, but I've seen her do it a number of times with my daughter. I've cantered her before in a familiar arena, but not that much. Mark tasked us at the clinic to trot, and trot and trot some more - at all tempos and working to maintain our softness - until it was possible for us to just slip into canter without any drama on either side. Today was the day we crossed this river - we were by ourselves in the arena, it was warm weather, Dawn was feeling good after her chiro work last week, and she was soft and responsive at the walk and trot - we even did some nice stretching down trot work on a looser rein. And even after three days off, she was relaxed (for Dawn - Dawn is never anything but forward and alert) and attentive.
So after some trot work, including some nice lengthening and shortening, and some transitions, I sat the trot and cued for left lead canter. She stepped flawlessly into canter - the transition was beautiful - like butter - and maintained her softness for several large circles. After a rest, we cantered again on the left lead, again with a lovely transition, this time making several laps of the whole arena and also some large circles. Another rest break, followed by a bit more trot work. Then we cantered to the right as well - another perfect transition, although the canter itself wasn't quite as smooth - her right lead isn't as good yet - although for her right lead canter it was pretty darn good. We went back to some walk and trot work, but she was starting to rev up and anticipate - anytime I sat the trot she was thinking we were about to canter (I'll mix it up next time), so we didn't canter any more today.
She was very, very good - we've come a long way together - and I was delighted with her and told her so. I see a lot more canter work in our future . . .
And in other news, the bugs are back in force - we've had a whole string of days and days in the upper 70s and even 80sF, which is unheard of for our part of the world at this time of year. We've got gnats, flies and mosquitos, and a few days ago I looked down to see . . . a tick (ick!!!) crawling on my arm. Usually March, April and even most of May are pest-free, but not this year. A lady at my barn gave me this fly spray recipe - I haven't tried it yet but it looks good:
15 oz water
5 oz vinegar (she uses apple cider vinegar)
2 oz vegetable oil
2 oz dish soap
4 oz mouthwash (of your choice)
about 20 drops clove oil (until it smells good)
about 10 drops citronella