Two rides, two results.
April 11, 2011 3 Comments
I had two rides on Oliver recently – one on Saturday, and one tonight. On Saturday he was unfocused and a bit tense, but I did very cruelly ride him right as the other horses were being brought in and fed, and Oliver registered his discontent by doing his best to ignore me, calling to other horses, and keeping his ears forward, pointedly not listening to me. He was a little squirrely at the beginning of the ride, but I put him straight to work, and we ended up having a decent ride, but he never truly relaxed for me. Despite his total unhappiness with my delaying his dinner, we did book one important accomplishment – I got him to spiral in and out, at the walk, in both directions. He’s beginning to understand leg aids, and best of all, I was able to get him to move alway from my right leg when circling right. So that was a definite win.
Tonight I showed up after dinner, and Oliver was back to his mellow self. We had a very nice ride, and worked on a number of things. First, as we warmed up, I worked on steering correctly – from inside leg and outside rein. He’s not perfect, but he improves with each ride. I rode shallow serpentines and figure-8’s and at the end of the warm up, he was turning nicely for me. I went back to this exercise mid-ride during a walk break, and also got good responses. This is good progress.
We also did quite a bit of work trotting. I had my spurs on tonight, and warmed up carefully, working on keeping my leg in position with my toes forward, and my foot at the girth, not curled back. I did the balancing exercises that Christy has me working on, and was pleased to find that Oliver held a pretty steady rhythm for a change, and he is also accepting more contact from me, and stays relaxed. This is also some nice progress. He used to bear down and speed up whenever his rider touched his mouth.
However, I noticed that as we worked, he started to speed up randomly, often at a moment when I was giving him little or no real input. Ha! Busted! I think he uses speeding up as an evasion, so whenever he did that, I sent him forward and kept him there. We just got a couple loads of sand in the arena, and the footing is deeper – and takes more work. He started to tire and wanted to slow down, but I kept him moving forward to make the point that the human – not the horse – sets the tempo. We did more serpentines and figure-8s while trotting, and lo and behold, the evasions stopped once he was convinced that I was paying attention.
We finished up the ride working on transitions. His downward transition in particular isn’t as crisp as I’d like to see – he really needs to transition from the seat. I started by saying “whoa” while giving him a big half halt with my seat, and closing my fingers on the reins, which increased the contact. Gradually, as he got the hang of it, I dropped the “whoa,” and for the last few, I was *almost* able to abandon the reins. Almost but not quite. However, he made good progress, and I could feel him stepping nicely under himself when I half-halted him, which is exactly the correct response to this important aid. Good boy, Oliver!
We finished up working on relaxing and stretching. He is hard (for me at least) to stretch, and he’s still not working over his back enough to speak of – getting him to stretch into the bit is the next thing on my mental to-do list for Oliver, behind relaxing, building the strength to move rhythmically and steering correctly. At this point, I’m happy if I can get him to stretch into a decent working walk – on my terms and at my invitation. He likes stretching, but does it on his own, almost rooting (and makes me wonder at times if he’s using this unbidden behavior to evade.) He relaxed, and stretched a bit, and then halted promptly from my seat. He earned his cookies tonight!