Monday, July 11, 2016

Using the time you have

I have no media so enjoy today's word dump!

Last week's rides did not start off the best.  Odin was and is the best, but unfortunately the uncoordinated monkey on his back wasn't helping much.  On Tuesday I felt like I couldn't do anything correctly.  I was letting the reins slip, my shoulders were tilting forward, I couldn't get my core to engage for anything (thanks core, and after I fed you delicious carbs all holiday weekend too), and I couldn't seem to get weight into my left seat bone.

Shockingly, this led to a horse that was happily plowing around on the forehand, leaning on my inside leg and with total crap transitions.

Knowing how chopped up my July is going to be, how hard it is to wake up at 5 am to go ride, how crazy hot it is after work, and how both my trainers were at a horse show I had all the de-motivation in the entire world at my disposal and didn't ride again until Friday.

Then something weird happened.  On Thursday night I got strangely motivated.  I have a fantastic young horse and I have pretty much all the skills I need to ride him effectively, nothing is really stopping us and let's do this!  (whatever this is)

So Friday morning I went out with a game plan.  Step 1 - little spurs.  Sorry Odin, but this new fun trick of laying on the inside leg needs to go and having to pound you with my calf or heel isn't helping me.  Step 2-  shoulders back and fingers tight before anything else.  Step 3 - do some legal jumping (at my barn that means jump the fill without poles over it as the rule is no jumping anything in the cups).

While Odie is fun on the flat he is much happier jumping and incorporating some stuff like that helps him focus and makes him more eager to listen to me.  A perfect example is canter circles.  He likes to bulge and fall through the outside aids when turning at the canter.  Not a big deal and not surprising, but just a thing.  However, if he is turning towards a jump, well then all of a sudden he can turn his shoulders and hold his own body together!

The plan worked better than expected.  He has clearly been ridden in spurs before so that was a non-thing and I should give myself more credit than I do because my leg is pretty educated and I had no problems only engaging the spur when I needed to.  And it worked like a charm in getting him to stop bulging.  I think they also helped keep his front end more lifted and in turn I was able to keep my shoulders in a better position.  All of that then helps me better cue the transitions so our trot to canter is slightly better than a drunken camel's.  Funny how that works.

But leaping obstacles was the best part of all.  We did the small traffic cones and flower boxes, all at the canter.  My job is to get him aimed and as straight as possible in a rhythm, and keep looking up. Odin gets to pick our spot and get us over.  The only part we didn't do great on was the rhythm, and even that wasn't bad.  He still just has to learn that when he moves up to a distance, that doesn't automatically mean land and GO.   His brakes are good though so after a few uncoordinated strides, he rebalances and comes back.

Horse just seems to come alive when going over things and it makes the whole thing so fun.

We did another focused school in the ovenlike heat Saturday morning.  I left the spurs off just to feel the difference and he had retained his lessons from Friday so he was sharp and good.  We did a lot of circles of different size and tear drops and serpentines at trot to test moving off the leg and changing bend while keeping our rhythm and not falling on our forehand.  At canter I let him mostly lope on a loose rein with bigger circles.

Those two rides gave me a solid feeling that he is maturing and as long as I pay attention and ride, I can get him where he needs to be.

We had one more quick hack this morning before I fly out to destinations unknown (aka Florida) for a work trip tomorrow.   Riding at dawn is still an adjustment for me, as i desperately want to be asleep at that time.  So it took me a good ten seconds to realize when I put his bridle on that it was almost choking him.  Luckily he made plenty of faces to express his displeasure. I had to drop it a hole on both sides to get it into a reasonable position!

The wear marks were normal so I know someone didn't borrow/change it, therefore I guess his head grew?  At 5?  In 48 hours? I guess that is possible.

We just had a quick flat session before I had to go to work.  I was focusing on what to do when he does go to drop his head down now that I am not slipping the reins and reinforcing bad decisions.  If my timing is on point and I stay really strong in my core, I can add a bit of leg with a slight outside rein bump and that seems to work.  If my timing slips a little or he pulls me forward some, I just go the halt and back up a couple steps, then trot off again.  This is TEDIOUS stuff but it seemed to get him to a place where he carried his own self around for awhile.

Of course in true green horse fashion he then gets crooked or leans or something else so my ride really just kept being about those micro adjustments in my position to help him be better.  I honestly think I could have done most of the session blind folded because it was all about feeling him and changing me.  This is about a million percent less fun than jumping but I do like the sense of accomplishment when he gets it all together for a few strides and I know it was because I helped out.
We are very much all about celebrating the small victories!