Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Color Inside the Lines

Last week I didn't see my horses at all, because I was in Florida moving the rest of my stuff out. It all went fine (except when I thought my cat had run away and I spent two hours sobbing and looking for him and then had a headache the entire next day). I'm sad, though. I loved living there and I hope to move back someday. It's a hard place to keep a horse but if I had a real grownup job with money I could make it work.

I did get to see Duchess though!
This is an old pic from when I used to ride her.
She looks a little too thin for my taste right now.

Anyway, I got back late Saturday night, and even though I was so tired I just wanted to lie down, I got on both horses on Sunday. Red was his usual good boy self. Mo was a little tense and rushed, but he'd had a week off and it was hella windy so I forgive him. I did have to ride him for quite some time to work him down to earth, but that's not a big deal for a baby TB.

On Monday I took a fabulous flat lesson on Mo. He was just really stellar. No one was around to take any pictures or anything (I never want to ask M--I need her eyes on the moment-to-moment, and she was sitting on a horse anyway). So you'll just have to trust me that he was a total rockstar.

First of all, M kept saying that he looks fabulous, and he really does. His coat is shiny, he's fat ("he can stay fat like that through training level. When you go prelim he'll need to be fitter." Gulp. "But that won't happen for a couple years?" "Ohhhhh you never know." Another gulp. Ha).

Mo's trot work was on point yesterday. He's still a green bean and will be for awhile, and he whined a tiny bit about the contact, but we were able to move beyond just "get him to give to the bit" to "keep that feel and go do something else." So we did lots of changes of direction, lots of w/t transitions (he's not ready to stay on the bit through the transition yet).

And we started properly introducing him to leg yields. I liked this exercise and so did he. We started out on a 12m trot circle ("ride the outside edge of your horse around to make it smaller"). The circle would be too small for him to stay on in balance, but he did have to maintain an energized trot and softness in the bridle. Then when it was time to leg yield, I'd just put a little more in the outside stirrup and a little opening outside rein and just think "make the circle bigger." Any more than that was too much, I found. If I tried to ask for the leg-yield with my inside leg timed as you would on a broke horse, he'd get tense and invert. "No no, that's not it. He has to stay in his shape--he has to color inside the lines." That was a brilliant little phrase, because we got it every single time after that. He was even crossing over, because my stripey-face is a genius.

We had some discussions about bend, but nothing serious. He likes to lean on my right leg a bit when going right, so M said something she used to say a lot when I rode Lex: "Make a place for your inside leg by moving his barrel over." That works pretty well, but I have a right-side problem. I sit off to the right a little, especially when cantering Mo. I hang on the right rein. My right leg is just less useful. I don't know what to do about it other than be aware of when I'm crooked and try to fix it. I don't know what the weakness is in my body that's causing it but I'll figure it out eventually and get to the root of the problem. The good news is, Mo was being so fantastic that we COULD think and talk about my equitation. That's super encouraging.

The canter work was pretty good, too, and I made it harder for him at first. He was galloping around like a racehorse and feeling the tiniest bit frantic--and this was after a few attempts to get the right lead. Mary told me to put his canter "at the edge of walk." For whatever reason, this let me relax and sink down onto his back a little more, and then his canter got really soft and nice. We're getting there with the canter. I think it still stresses us both out, but I think the only way beyond this thicket is through. I don't want him to start worrying about our rides, but we can't avoid the canter forever either. I didn't buy him to be a walk/trot horse. That said, I don't know that we'll canter every day until it's a less stressful experience for him. He's a worrier.

So that was all good, but the best part of the ride for me was the very end, when M insisted that we go for a walk outside the ring. Historically, this has not been Mo's best event. But even if he's going to be a show jumper, he's going to have to be ridden in the open. Those bridle paths in Wellington aren't going to hack down themselves, right? I expected at least a little drama based on the last time we tried this a couple weeks ago, but you know what? He acted like we do this every day, and that it's his favorite part of the ride. I don't know what changed, but it was a totally pleasant and fun experience. There will be lots more hacking out in the future.

I rode him again today and he was just as good as yesterday, though I have this gut instinct that he was worrying about the canter. We did it anyway, and I did my best to stay relaxed and let go. We got about a circle of a canter I quite liked and then called it quits for the day and went for a little walk back to the barn. All in all, it was a success.

I rode Red after work last night and thought he felt a little unlike himself. I decided it was most likely that the footing in my ring at home is pretty hard due to lack of rain, and that I'd see how he felt today if we actually got the forecasted rain. We did, and he DID feel better. Maybe the old man will need front shoes for the summer, we'll see. He's so cool. There are a few things to work on with his flatwork still--he feels a little inconsistent to me in his bend and contact, but all in due time. I'm just thrilled that he's stretching over his topline and engaging. I want him all muscley and ready to jump!

So that's the news with my boys. I have a jump school on the books for Mo on Friday. I CANNOT WAIT. We need to break up the flatwork a little bit and I just miss jumping. Plus I need to see how the Royal Rider stirrups do over fences. I've heard they're no help at all in anchoring the ol' leg and that they make some people go to their knees. We'll see, I guess!


  1. I am stealing that circling exercise for my ride tonight! Genius!

  2. I'm also stealing the circle exercise!! Love it

  3. lol Mo's 'prelim' face is hilarious! sounds like a seriously productive ride!

  4. Sounds like some fab spins on your awesome boys. I'm excited for your lesson too & to hear how the Royal Riders hold up ☺

  5. Seriously, M sounds fantastic! I'm glad you guys had a good lesson. Also, crookedness is a terrible, evil bitch from Hell. I drive myself crazy working on staying straight and balanced.

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  7. Love to see what you guys have coming together!