Friday, May 30, 2008


Ick, my ride on McKinna today was just not that fun. Do you ever just get on, intending to have a really nice solid schooling session on the flat, and it just doesn't quite go the way you wanted it to? That's what I had tonight. We were working on our canter, which is still a difficult area for her. Her biggest problem is first keeping herself up and balanced instead of racing on the forehand, and second relaxing and staying calm at the trot afterwards. It's very frustrating for me when she races and panics after the canter, because Bailey did that a lot too. I was working on schooling a pattern my trainer gave me, and it was alright for awhile, but after awhile she just lost it and was rushing around for pretty much the rest of the ride. We fought it out for a pretty long time, then I just let it go and did a bunch of half-turns back to the rail at the trot, which usually help settle her down. At that point we were both frustrated and I'm pretty sure she was confused. A sweaty saddle pad and t-shirt later, I think it was just one of those rides that you have to accept, learn from, and move on. At least we ended well, and at the end of the day she's still an affectionate, sweet little girl!

Now, the promised story.

Chaucer is a 10 year old Hanoverian-TB cross. I don't know enough of his previous story to tell it fairly, but Ellen (my trainer) and her niece, Rose (who owns Loki and Fiona) bought him at the local auction for $250. He's always been a bit of an interesting horse - totally a lover and wants to be a pocket pony, but under saddle he scares himself easily. I've been schooling him over fences for several months now, and he's learned an awful lot about how to know where his feet are at any given time . . . trust me, you should have seen him the first few times I made him walk over an X. He would either launch himself over it or practically fall down at the trot, and I suspected he just didn't understand how to calmly get himself over the fence. So we walked. At first it took an awful lot to convince him he could walk over it, but now he's much better, and we school around 2'. He can jump higher - he has in the past, and lord knows he does when he takes off too long - but our biggest goal is settling down, trusting himself to find his own distances and me when I give him a little input, and so on.

On the plus side, he has a beautiful canter, and the boy and I have reached an understanding. He really doesn't like fussing, so I don't fuss. If he wants to pick a fight, I will get after him pretty hard, using strong half-halts or even a modified pulley rein if we're outside and he wants to go, but the very next stride I let him have his face back. He flips his head when he feels confined, so when he starts that nonsense, I just remind him with a firm half-halt that I'll play nice if he'll play nice, and then I relax and so does he. It works really well, and he really prefers a hacking-type ride, as you can see by my really loose inside rein here. If you'll notice, though, I've got the outside rein snug, and that's the key with him. Over time, especially with Rose's schooling since she focuses on dressage, he's grown to be a lot better about contact.

His gaits remind me of Bailey, because they've got that big smooth powerful quality that darling little McKinna doesn't get naturally. His jumping, when he's got his head square on his shoulders, is so effortless that I can't help but dream of the day when he's completely confident and spookless (for the most part), and we can go galloping about an XC course. Unlikely to happen, as Ellen and Rose are planning on selling him this summer, but I can dream, can't I? In any case, I get to have fun schooling him over fences, and I know it's been very good for my riding. His preference is for a quiet rider, but I have also had to learn how to put in very well-timed aides when he needs guidance. I'll never forget the first time that he threw his head up, panicked, and tried to leave out a stride (a full canter stride, mind you) and I reacted fast enough to keep him on the ground for that extra step, which meant a very quick and pretty strong bump on the reins. It surprised the heck out of him, and it was a turning point: after that fence, he believed me when I told him that I sometimes knew better than him about where to take off, where before he would ignore me and had blown through my half-halts to take off long. That extra little bit of trust has helped us come a lot further, because he finally believes that I will help him out.

Speaking of XC, I am taking both him and McKinna to an Eventing Derby at Inavale next Sunday. It should be fun!

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