Whew, nothing makes a girl not update her blog quite like a lame horse or a polar vortex (or several). Fortunately for me, I have been able to catch some rides rather than turning 100% into a laptop barnacle. We’re all sick of the cold, hearing about the cold, reading about the cold, reading on people’s blogs about how the cold has prevented riding….this winter sucks and horse people (and regular people too
but it sucks more for us OK) know it. The horses have rolled with the punches amazingly well, though. So in between nose-hair-crackling deep freezes the ponies have been able to not necessarily progress as much as ideal, but at least get some decent works in.
Prior in particular continues to impress me with her attitude. Stuck inside for 3 days? No riding for a week? No problem, just get on the greenie TB and she’s like OK, back to work then.
Probably also helps that she stall-walks like nobody’s business.
So, early in December
before I spent all my money for the foreseeable future on vet bills I had a lesson on the Lil Miss as a general checkin/baseline/homework/please tell me I’m not ruining someone else’s horse. We started off a little not-so-great… people on the internet don’t agree on much, but one consistency I’ve found is the number of It Happened to Me: The Walk is the Easiest Gait to Ruin, I Ruined My Horse’s Walk and You Will Too stories. Yipes. Pearl’s always (uh, when she’s not lame) had a lovely smooth ground-covering walk. Prior, um, doesn’t. She has two different walks: on the buckle nose to the ground, and any amount of contact jigging llama. My solution (sing along if you know the words, everybody!): don’t do anything because you might do it wrong oh no gasp I can’t be perfect all the time help. So we walked a lot and Christy was like dude, you guys need help. So we talked about all the little things we can do at the walk because guess what it turns out that I’m not going to break the horse by doing walk work on her. Which are the same building blocks you’re supposed to use when you ride, y’know, anytime ever. Can I get a little bit of bend. Can I get a little bit of counterbend. Baby shoulder-fore. Baby leg yield. Keep a consistent, appropriate amount of contact, let her fuss with herself, reward her when she relaxes. Pretty much anything to get stiff baby horsie to realize she can move different parts of her body around. We did a little bit of trot (I don’t think Christy was terribly optimistic) and lo, we got some adorable trot work out of her.
So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been working on every time I ride her. Loosening up that walk, relaxing that neck. Also brakes, because that’s an important thing for ammy horses to have. And she’s been really great. She’s less fussy about contact in the walk, her trot is more adjustable, she’s got a better half halt than Pearl (probably because she’s not strong enough to say nah, I’d rather just ignore you, since she needs so much help from the human while she’s going), she’s willing to do multiple w/t/w/t transitions in a row without getting jazzed, she’ll pretty much halt just off your seat at a walk, etc etc etc. I loooove baby TBs; can you tell? With how inconsistent her work has been it’s not like she’s magically sprouted a perfect topline or anything, but she’s getting a little bit less of a pencil neck. We do cookie stretches when I remember, and while I initially felt like a goofy NH person when I first started doing them with Pearl, it’s interesting to see from the ground how wow, she really has so much less range of motion on her stiffer side (Pearl’s is left, Prior’s is right). Good stuff, and I really like working with her.
She also got introduced to sidereins, which she was a little less than amused by.
Actually, I was kind of an idiot and was like OK warm up without ’em, put ’em on, good to go. Not so much when you’re a baby horse…she was pretty baffled by the whole there’s constant contact on both reins? And I’m supposed to move into it? Are you sure you don’t want me to just back up at Mach 5? Whoops, bad human. So then we went verrrry slooooowly. Lunge without ’em, do some up/down transitions. Then hook up just the inside rein. Then both. Lots of praise. Repeat from scratch on the other side. It was actually interesting to see how it really was the addition of the outside siderein that totally blew her mind…which I guess is like, The Whole Point of dressage = don’t just pull your inside rein to turn. Lesson learned.