Thursday, May 3, 2012

88 Rides, Two Baths and a New Saddle

Today Dawn and I had our 50th ride of 2012, bringing my total rides for the year to 88.  This time last year, I'd ridden only 42 times - having an indoor arena makes a huge difference - it doesn't matter what the weather is doing and the footing is never too wet.   This time last year, I'd only ridden Dawn 9 times and only rode her 61 times in all of 2011.  And Pie and Red have had many additional rides in their training with Heather - lots of miles for all three horses.  I find with my horses, riding them consistently is the best way for us to really make progress together.

Dawn and I have worked hard five days in a row, so she'll get two days off starting tomorrow.  In those five days, we've been working together on developing our mutual softness, using my new found understanding of consistently of using a following/allowing hand and providing the horse with a "soft" spot by not pulling/bracing and also not throwing away the contact when the horse finds it but instead mentally softening.  Every day Dawn and I have worked, we've been more consistently finding that softness together, and today was probably the best ride I've ever had on her.  Today, she was almost continuously soft at the walk and trot  - only a few moments of bracing - and her short and long trot work was both soft and exhilerating - she was in self-carriage for most of it and it felt amazing - great drive and impulsion without any bracing.  And the most amazing thing is her head position has changed - her original impulse was to go low and in with head behind the vertical.  Today she was upright, lifting from behind, with her head and neck raised just so and head not behind the vertical . . . just amazing to feel in my hand and body.  And this is a horse who is built somewhat downhill - for her to achieve this at almost age 15 is a testimony to her athleticism.

Since it was hot and humid, when we were done I gave Dawn her first bath of the season, using EQyss Micro-Tek medicated shampoo - I rarely bathe my horses to perserve their skin oils, although I do rinse and scrape them off if they're hot.

My work with Dawn has been seriously improved by my work with Red.  I've been working on the same allowing/following hand and mental release with him - he's at least as sensitive a horse as Dawn and perhaps more so, and he's got at least as much fire and forward.  As Heather said, he'll never be a beginner or intermediate ride and neither will Dawn - they both require a very careful and sensitive ride and they're both in the process of taking me where I need to be.  Pie, on the other hand, could be a beginner ride at some point in the future - he's a stoic and also basically very easy-going.  My ride with Red last Wednesday was the best ride I've ever had on him - this week is a week of bests.  He came out very up and forward, and we worked for a bit on directing him in various figures to help him focus - there were lots of distractions but he managed to come back to me and focus.  And then we worked on transitions - there were no hops and very little bracing, and pretty quickly we had lovely, soft, engaged transitions.  And, as with Dawn, his head position is now different - he no longer does the head to chest, I'm-all-cramped-up thing, but his head and neck were raised with his head just relaxed and soft.  He's built more uphill than Dawn, which makes it somewhat easier for him - his bracing is more mental than physical.  And we had some amazing moments of softness and self-carriage - the feel in my hands was soft and relaxed, and he was able to do short and long trot with ease - it was just outstanding, and by the end our transition work was effortless. Tomorrow I go up to ride him again, and I'm hoping for more of the same . . .  And Heather said he dealt very well with a serious distraction the day before I was up - she was riding him when another horse decided to dump his rider and "leave" (as Heather said) at a water crossing obstacle - Red just observed the whole thing and didn't get upset.

Pie is getting a few days off until his hind end is a bit more stable and he's comfortable working.  He's on day two of his 10-day paste treatment for the new strain of EPM.  He's developed some loose manure, so I've started him on probiotics.  Pie was also stressed a bit by the heat today - he's very sensitive to the heat - nostrils big and breathing hard when I brought him in around 11 a.m.  I cold hosed and scraped him and left him in his stall and then washed him after I was done with Dawn.   To finish up, since I (momentarily) have two clean horses, I washed my brushes.  I don't expect Dawn and Pie will stay clean - lots of rain and mud coming up - but at least some of the accumulated winter dirt has been washed away.

And a big piece of news - I've bought this saddle:

It's an About the Horse Saddle, size 16 seat and #1 tree (which is the tree size Dave Genadek, the saddle maker, says is right for Pie and Red based on the photos and tracings I sent him) and it's cordura, which means it's lighter to lift- it's shipped and with a little luck it'll be just right - keeping fingers crossed and waiting for it to arrive - the seller is a very nice lady from Michigan who has agreed to my trying it for 10 days to be sure it fits, with a right of return if it doesn't - and we used a written agreement and Paypal to be sure we're both protected.

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