Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Many Good Things Happening

I've been pretty much keeping to my riding schedule - Pie and Red get ridden from Sundays through Thursday (and Red gets a lunge session on Friday to check the progress of his soundness), and Dawn gets ridden from Saturday through Wednesday.  If you do the math, that means each horse gets ridden 5 days a week, with two days off, and due to the schedule only Dawn gets ridden on Saturday and we all get a day off on Friday.  Some weeks that doesn't work, due to farrier, vet, dentist or chiro visits, or due to the (very few) other things I have going on, but mostly that's the schedule we keep to.  All three horses, and especially me - it's improvement in how I ride that really determines if/when they improve - benefit from our regular schedule.  Dawn usually gets ridden early in the morning when there are few people around - she benefits from few horses in the ring (she is aggressive - pinning ears and threatening to kick) and I'm not looking to try to change that.  She's also a horse who takes my full concentration (not that the others don't deserve that too), and an empty ring makes that easier.  After I turn her back out, I usually walk out to say hi to the boys - I find that greeting my horses when I'm not going to bring them in to ride improves our relationships.  Both Red and Pie usually walk right up to me for some conversation and scratches - I never feed treats so they're just saying hi.

Dawn and I have had four really excellent rides in a row this week.  Her canter work is really getting good - her transitions (walk/canter and trot/canter, and canter/trot) are prompt and soft.  We're getting very good consistency at the canter, in terms of candence, bend and softness, and even when she gets a bit worked up and loses her softness, I just go with her and she quickly comes back - the brilliance and forward never leaves, but we're able to also get some relaxation with that, which is our big challenge.  With her, I just have to stay soft and let her move until she settles, making sure to keep contact that's soft and following.  I love riding her - she shows me exactly what I'm doing well, and what I'm not, every single ride - she's my "guardian".

Pie is working better and better.  We've had a series of very nice walk/trot/canter rides, with a mix of work in the indoor and outside in the pastures.  His softness and forward at the trot are very consistent now, and his small circle work is really excellent.  The two big things we've achieved this week are in connection with pasture riding and also his indoor canter work.  His canter work is really improving - his departures are prompt and accurate, and his ability to sustain the canter, and circle and make corners with a proper bend and without falling in, are really improving.  His softness on the left lead is pretty close to completely consistent, and the right lead is improving rapidly.  We've been going up to a flat area in the pastures a couple hundred yards from the barn, and using this area to work in, and have also made expeditions by ourselves much farther out in the pastures - this area will be good to work in once there's snow on the ground.  He always heads back to the barn in a relaxed manner on a loose rein.

Red and I have been continuing our walking rides.  We've been doing some things to liven up our rides - poles and cone work.  His softness and responsiveness, and his tracking up in small circles, are continuing to improve.  We've been taking some pasture expeditions for variety, either with or without other horses - going up and down the hills is very good for him and he is coping well with the steep grades - he motors up the uphills and walks downhill without any toe dragging.  Today we were out as things were getting dark, and he motored around on loose contact with excellent responsiveness - we do lots of circles and figures up and down the terrain.  It's also hard not to feel a lot of affection for him - he nickers almost every time he sees me, even though he never gets any treats, and when I open his stall door he stuffs his had into the halter, he's so eager to get out and do something.  I think all this walk work we're having to do will prove to be a blessing in disguise - it's going to give us a very solid foundation. Today one of the trainers brought a horse in from the geldings' pasture and Red and Pie following the horse to the gate, and another boarder was watching.  She said that Red and Pie galloped back out to the pasture, and that Red showed no signs of unsoundness at all as he galloped away at high speed.  Interestingly enough, Red today demanded a very thorough massage of his hindquarters muscles, by practically pinning me against a wall to tell me what he needed.  I judge by whether he moves toward or away from me what he needs - he's very good about letting me know exactly what he needs, since he now knows that I listen.

I'm delighted with all my three horses and they're working very hard to make me a better rider and horseperson.

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