Monday, November 25, 2013

Growing Pains

Oh, green horses. It's always the bitter with the sweet, right?

Lex has mostly been a good girl, but now that we've had several weeks of riding under our belts and things have been going relatively smoothly lately, it's time to go from riding for survival to riding for education. We've gotta get to work or before I know it she'll be 27 and I'll barely have started her over crossrails, heh.

To that end, I think I'm going to take a lesson on her with Chris on Wednesday. This will be the second lesson I've had on her with him, ever - I've just been riding other peoples' horses. I'll be interested to see what he thinks. My thoughts are that she's really quite stiff in her back - as short-coupled horses like her often are - and that she'd rather fall on her face than bend. I've been working on all the things you do to get a horse like her to carry herself and bend, and it's tough because she can take quite a bit of offense. She's not loving contact and sometimes gets pissy when I put my leg on. That said, she does move off my leg laterally when I ask her to. And she's getting better about not dropping behind the contact. I'd much rather have her toss her head in the air than curl up. Lately, since I've been insisting on having more contact and not just letting her trot around on the buckle, she's been flinging her head all over the place to figure out how to deal, but she's getting better and better about it, and about listening to me when I insist on a rhythm. She's a thoroughbred, and I believe in never rushing a thoroughbred, so I want the trot to stay slow and even at the moment. There's too much to do with working on getting her to bend and accept contact to also be trotting around at Mach 3.

So to get her to bend through her back and relax, I've been asking her to square off turns (yield her hindquarters), do some leg yields on circles, and slowly trot smallish figure-8s with a real focus on bending left, straightening, and then bending right. She'd like to fall in and rush instead of step under with her inside hind and lighten a little in the shoulder, but if I can get the trot slowed down and ask consistently, she does what I want, even if I have to put up with some fussing at first.

We're back in a grouchy phase, because now I'm asking her to work harder. I think this will be her pattern: she gets pissed off when I introduce something new because she doesn't understand it or it's a bit challenging for her physically; she gets stronger and/or a clearer understanding of what I want and starts to relax; she looks forward to doing that activity. You should see her when I encourage her to stretch at the walk or trot. The nose goes to the ground, the ears go forward, and the gait improves. The long and low work means she's getting more comfortable and is using her body correctly. It makes a great reward when she's behaving herself.

We have quite a lot of homework to do this winter!
1. Accept contact as a normal part of life.
2. Stop worrying and love my leg aids.
3. Stay real cute.
4. Stand still at the mounting block.

1. Be a touch quicker to soften when she gives me what I want. I think, for instance, that I'm good at releasing in the second step of her accepting the bit, but I need to release in the first step.
2. Sit the trot better. I already have a better-than-average sitting trot, but there are moments when I think I could be more effective with my leg when things are going wrong.
3. Improve my sense of clarity of where she should be at any given moment, on both the micro and macro levels.
4. Be a little tougher on Lex sometimes. Just because she's my sweetie doesn't mean she can get away with crap. Training green horses isn't all cosmic and great. Sometimes I have to be better about being an authority figure when I'm in the saddle, starting with getting her to stand still at the f&#$!ng mounting block
5. Start getting over the fact that I hate lunging and doing more of that. I just do not enjoy it.
6. Get her out of the ring sometimes. She has the basic brakes and steering. I've never been the top trail rider of all time, but I think she'd enjoy it. She's not a spooky horse, really.
7. Keep honing those grooming skillz.

Lex's third task and my seventh overlap!
I have another equine project to tell you about, but I want photo evidence first. Stay tuned!

1 comment: