Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Baby's First Half-Halt"

Yay! We've officially had instruction!

I love Sharon. She's nice, witty, and a brilliant instructor. She can see things and come up with solutions that never would have occurred to me. Several people at the barn have said that she is great with starting babies, and that is clearly true. Not that I had any doubt.

Because I was a member of the United States Pony Club Association, I cannot show up for a lesson without having my horse and myself turned out as well as possible. Everything, including the horse, has to be clean, which is a challenge in Florida. So this morning while the other horses ate breakfast, the WonderMare got a bath, even though she is pasture boarded and it looked like it might rain. She was not. amused. It's kind of hilarious that this stickler for turnout got a horse who hates everything having to do with being spruced up. So after the bath, I let her "hand graze" while she dried. I put that in quotation marks because it assumes she ate grass. She didn't. She went right for the trees and started pulling the Spanish moss off them.

She is such a noodle. She ate huge clumps of the stuff. I probably hand grazed her for 30 minutes and she barely touched the grass. There's hardly any grass in the fields right now, and there's plenty of moss, so you'd think she'd take advantage of the grass. I guess horses don't think like that.

Anyway, when I got back to the barn this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to find a still-spotless Lex. I'm glad I didn't annoy her in vain. Of course, she was annoyed anyway, super angry about the flies, and she also hates fly spray. That's something we're gonna have to get her over. This is Florida. The bugs will carry you away if you're not careful.

"The lesson, Jess! Get to the point!"

Okay, okay. The lesson was excellent. It was only 30 minutes, but that makes sense to me - we don't want to fry the baby brain, and she's not that fit yet. It was a very blustery day, the kind of day that makes you think it's about to storm any minute, so Lex was as up as she's been since I got her. It took her a little while to settle in. Sharon recommended that I lunge her before I ride her to get some of the wiggles out. I could do that, and I lunged her for several days before I started riding her, but, between you and me? I hate lunging. Hate it. I do a terrible job keeping organized, I dislike circles, I can't stand still, I get bored. My wonderful friend Shelly (hi, Shelly!) gave me some tips on different ways to lunge that should be better for the horse, so I'll try some of those.

But in spite of some wiggles, Lex was a good girl. She spooked once when the wind blew a branch down, but then settled very quickly. And she didn't decide that end of the ring, or that corner, were scary. We never had another problem in that spot for the rest of the lesson. What a sensible mare!

Sharon emphasized the need to put the right basics on the horse that will serve her well no matter what discipline(s) we end up in, and I agree. She was clear that we should interfere with Lex's mouth as little as possible, and said the constant gnawing on the bit is anxiety. By the end of the lesson, she wasn't doing that any more, she was just licking her lips. So when I want Lex to do a downward transition, I should turn her into the fence - not roughly, but just guide her nose that way, and as soon as the fence is working on slowing her down, I let go.

"Will you sometimes hit your toe on the fence? Yes. That's life."

We picked up the trot for a few steps here and there, and when Sharon was convinced Lex was listening to my requests for downward transitions via the fence, I was allowed to trot all the way around the ring. Since Lex got the idea that turning to the fence means slow down/stop, I could just kind of think about turning her toward the fence and she'd slow her trot down. Sharon: "Baby's first half-halt!"

Sharon also encouraged me to think about posting through molasses, barely out of the saddle, to get Lex used to the idea that my seat dictates the pace. Lex is too green to go into the corners or to bend - those things will come with time. Right now, we've got to work on steering. She wants me to carry a small jumping bat in my outside hand so I can kind of tap her outside shoulder with it, as if to say, "Move your withers over there" in order to help teach her to turn. I didn't have a bat with me today, but I'll try that tomorrow.

So overall, it was a great lesson. Sharon really likes Lex a lot (duh) and thought she looked like a hunter pony trotting around. I'm VERY proud of Lex! What a superstar!

I can't wait to see where we are this time next month.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon sounds great. :) Glad you had a good lesson.