Sunday, September 14, 2014

Forward Bootcamp

[Note: none of the pics are from this ride. My high school bff who used to ride and now rides Red sometimes came to the barn to meet him and took some adorbs pics about a week ago. I just got 'em. Enjoy.]

After Mo's little XC excitement explosion on Friday, he's in bootcamp. This isn't at all about punishment. No one is mad at him at all. He's a baby, he was doing a normal baby thing. But because he's so green, I don't have a lot of tools to reach for when things go wrong. So I did the only things I COULD do: feet forward, shoulders back, keep his head up, circle. But what he really needed was to get put up in front of my leg and to stay there. A good forward gallop probably would have sorted him out. But in an open field with holes and rocks everywhere (get it together, venue, your footing sucks) on a green thoroughbred and with me instead of M up, that didn't happen. It's fine, he's none the worse for wear. M couldn't coach me because her horse was also having issues and if she'd had to yell at me from on top of Spike, we'd have both been on the ground. So Saturday morning we got right down to sorting this out and, I hope, beginning to install more options in him for responses.

Even cute when blurry.

I started by lunging him, which I haven't done since his first week. I very rarely lunge to quiet a horse down. That's a self-defeating cycle, honestly, because they get fitter and fitter and so it takes longer to calm them down and meanwhile their joints are going ouch. But a few minutes on the lunge to see what kind of mood my bronc was in just seemed like good self-preservation. And I'm glad I did that, because while he behaved himself very well, he did clearly need to trot it out a bit. Sometimes I'd rather settle them down from in the saddle, but this worked out well on the lunge. He might have bucked once but was overall very workmanlike. I shan't complain about him being fresh and forward, because I've been working to install the go button since the first ride, and I'll take fresh and forward over balky and sluggish any day of the week.

M wandered over to the ring as I was wrapping up the lunging sesh and we had a brief convo about whether I should wear my jumping vest.

Me: "I brought it up here because if you wanted me to use it I didn't want to have to go all the way back to the trailer to find it."
M: "I mean, I would wear it."
Me: "Done."

Because when the 4* rider tells you she'd wear the vest, the normal person like you and me fuckin' wears the vest.

Practicing deeeeeeeep breaths. He loves that game.

So I got on the little bugger with M right there in case shit went haywire (though what she'd do is yell at me to gallop him on, which I know to do, but sometimes we all need our hands held, amirite?). He was fabulous. He walked forward happily around the ring, and then we went to walking through our poles. Unlike last time, he did not attempt to wiggle out or stop halfway through. He just marched right over them. M and I were chatting and I wasn't thinking too hard about what was happening, which is always good for me. I told her that what happened the day before didn't really faze me and I'm still delighted with him. She had two things to say to that:

"Good, because if that's all it took I'd throw rocks at him to get him to go and then buy him from you." [M has been known to throw rocks at the butts of some very high-quality horses when their problem is falling behind the leg. Little Miss Pony Club, huh? I love her.]
"I'm glad he did something bad because I was worried that we were missing a really big problem, not just encountering a normal one."

So anyway, we walked and trotted through the poles. At the trot I had to add a bit of leg, but no big deal. Then we did the only thing that was really going to make all three of us feel better, even if we were all a tad worried about it, which was gallop around the ring. It was fabulous. Once we got a good pace going, M pointed at a rail and we cantered over that. That confused Baby Mo the first time, but then he got better and better. Towards the end of that exercise, he actually saw the pole coming and adjusted his stride to make it work, because he is mommy's little genius.

PS I love my Piper breeches the most.

But that was not enough Mo-torture for a Saturday morning! Nope. That was just the warmup. Next we worked on getting another important tool started: giving to the bridle. I put him on a 20m trot circle, used a lot of leg to get the hind end going, and took a feel of his mouth. I'd hold the pressure until he gave and then let go. It was confusing for him, but he'll get there. Tomorrow I'll lunge him in loose side reins and we'll work with those for a few days until he sorts it out.

Finally, we ended on something that he likes and is good at: trotting his cross rails. All I had to do was trot each of the four jumps once each direction, and then he'd be done for the day. As seems to happen often, he got much easier to ride when the jumps were in front of him. He stopped thinking about other things, like the reins or where the gate was or whatever, and focused on the task at hand. He enjoyed it and did a fine job. Eight jumps in a row without a break in his second jump school is something to be very happy about, I believe. M tells me the jumps will be going up soon and I'm psyched.

Oh yeah, don't judge his leg wrap situation, still working on that one.

We ended on a short hack. He really likes going for walks, so it's a nice reward for him. And when we're out of the ring, I don't have to create the forward walk. It's just there.

All in all, I'm thrilled to pieces with Mo. He's a good boy and I'm sure he'll teach me plenty. He's already got a list of people who want him and all of whom claim to be at the front of it (including M, another pro, my mother, Tracy, and my best friend from high school). It's kinda fun to have the horse everyone actually wants in the barn for once. Hands off, ladies and germs! I'm not selling this stripey nose just yet.

Hello gorgeous uphill walk.
This pic makes me feel better about his neck.


  1. His neck is fab in that last picture! Glad you had a great ride, your progress so fun to watch and read about!

  2. Ain't nothing wrong with a little lunge (Lunging to Death on the other hand..). I typically do it to gauge mood, soundness or let them get the little hump in their back out if they have one.

  3. Yay for great rides! And I love me some Pipers too :)

  4. you have a great attitude about it - and so glad you had such a positive + productive ride after the problematic xc school. he'll figure it out!

  5. Yep, that neck. Sooooo sexy!! I'm a Mo fan. Can't wait for more pictures!!

  6. I'm with you on the lunging. And he is looking so muscular!