Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yesterday's Ride(s)

Yesterday Ellen and I met out at the barn in the morning to exercise all the horses in our collective string. We only ended up riding three out of five, since the remaining two and one of the ridden were being hauled out to a nearby barn to ride.

So first up I rode Fiona. I will get some pictures of her soon -- she's a Haflinger, and while she's cute, she's cute in the sense that a really big furry tank is cute. She's known for being somewhat sweet and also generally irritable under saddle. She hadn't been worked for about a week, so I longed her for a few minutes to work the kinks out. After discouraging initial resistance and watching the bucks fly at every canter transition, I brought her in to walk on a small circle. Oh, what's this? She started thinking, just because I was doing something other than making her go out on the big circle. At first she fought the small circle, but then she relaxed and she really stepped under herself nicely when I slowly fed her back out again. After that little experiment, she was good as gold. My ride on her was nice, though brief as she's quite out of shape. Biggest challenge with her is getting forward (which I got; I am good at getting forward) and keeping her from rooting on the bit. Both goals were duly accomplished and we called it good for her.

While I was riding Fifi, Ellen rode Chaucer at walk and trot. I got on to school him a little, but the saddle he had on was Rose's dressage saddle, which doesn't fit me at all. Walk was fine, but trot resulted in me being thrown all over the place and him (understandably) displeased and rushing, so we stopped. Lesson learned: use my own saddle next time.

Finally it was McKinna's turn. We started with a good 15 minutes of walk work: half-turns back to the rail, halt transitions, and generally working on being relaxed and getting a good connection. One of her biggest things is her halt; she can be walking along, merry as can be on a nice gentle contact, and as soon as you ask for the halt, she promptly complies by raising her head, dropping her back, and stopping dead. Sure, I like an immediate halt, especially when I'm chasing cows or about to walk into something I didn't see. Not so much when I want nice, square, and on contact.

So we worked on it by asking her to give a little bit at the halt, which I did by squeezing the inside rein periodically until she softened. As soon as she did, we walked forward into a nice light contact. As she began to understand more, I started gently squeezing the inside rein as we halted, and lo and behold, she stopped square without raising her head and dropping her back! After impressing upon me that this can lead to seesawing and is not to be used with both hands or at any gait above the halt-walk, we moved on to some trot work.

Trot work was fine, relaxed, and nicely on contact; this is what happens when we have a long, relaxed warmup. So we trotted for a bit, then did two canter transitions, neither of which were perfect, but I got her to stretch down a little.

That perfect canter transition still eludes us. Ah, well. We'll just have to keep working on it, mm? In any case, I have a flat lesson on Thursday, and we are leaving Friday morning to to take all of the horses camping. I'm very excited for that! None of us have ever taken the horses camping before, but our little herd (we really are, humans and horses, since we're always working together and almost always go places together) has been on trail rides together, and I wouldn't be surprised if McKinna had been taken camping before we owned her. I do know that she's wonderful for trail riding and loves to be outside.

Then, Sunday, we are all going to a dressage show. Between me and my mother, McKinna is only doing three walk-trot tests, so I don't think it will be too strenuous. It will be quite the busy weekend for us all!

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