Another Windy Day

chasing a life in the high desert

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Stepping Out

Wow – has it really been that long since the last Ezekiel update? I guess it has!

Well, we’ve been working as often as we can, as usual my work time is interfering with our free time. It’s also been dang hot, but evening rides are nice. We’ve been working in the arena just on sharpening everything up and getting more responsive to aides. He is doing better, though he continues to have trouble getting off my right leg. Cues on that side asking him to turn to the left require more effort than the same cues to the right. But it’s coming.

Yesterday was our first time on ‘trail’ – we went out the front gate into the little section of land the ranch owns out there. It’s not the official trails we have out back, but it’s somewhere outside the fence and somewhere he’s never been before. We followed Cindy and Wyatt out, and Zeke was very relaxed through the whole ride. We worked on crossing a piece of wood that was out there (no problem), going through a small ‘crater’ depression in the ground (more of a problem, but we did manage to walk nicely around it), and finally a downhill slope.

I approached the slope with some trepidation; I think I even said to Cindy, “We’ll need to learn how to go downhill,” as we followed Wyatt. I needn’t have worried. Zeke crouched his butt and went down like a pro, prompting Cindy to say, “Welcome to the world of mustangs!” They do have great instincts for terrain!

Today was a fun day in the arena, starting some work on collection. For the first time I felt like we got a true canter going, instead of a slow lope gait. He moved forward without my constant urging, using the entire arena and going at a nice speed. Our only issue came when he decided he didn’t need to listen to my cue to turn left as we approached the end of the arena (not getting off that right leg, again!). He ran straight into the mounting block, and I had to conclude he did it on purpose, expecting me to stop and regroup. So…I didn’t, we just kept going. And the next time we passed the corner, I asked nicely for him to turn, and when I felt his resistance, I popped him with that right spur. He leaped forward in surprise, but magically didn’t try to run me into the corner again! The up side of having a horse smart enough to figure out his own “short cuts” is that he’s quick to learn what doesn’t work, too!

After the arena we walked out our back gate, onto the real trails. We didn’t go far, just stepped out and walked up and down a short hill, then back around the pens to finish our day. Someday I hope to have someone around to take a picture while we make our improvements. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on it!

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Like a Roller Coaster

That’s the stage we’re in, Zeke and I. The roller coaster stage. We go up, we go down, and all of it is pretty thrilling.

We’re still just working on putting on the miles, riding as often as we can just to develop experience. Of course my schedule is not ideal, sometimes I have gaps of two days or more between riding days, but I try to avoid that. Highlights from this week include Saturday and Wednesday; low points, probably Tuesday.

Saturday was a nice workout in the wood arena, and our first time working through “changes”. By that I mean something was different – some big plastic barrels had been moved and were lying on their sides outside one end of the arena. So when Zeke went past, he could just glimpse these strange creatures between the rails of the arena, and he wanted no part of going anywhere near them. So our job that day was to continue working despite the distraction, and little by little, moving closer and closer to the dreaded barrels until they were no longer scary. That worked out just fine, we conquered that fear, then for fun we walked down to the dressage court to cool out.

Cristina was taking a dressage lesson that day, and we watched her working through Training Level Test 1 for a little while. During a break for her, Zeke and I decided to try it too! It was the first time we ever trotted and cantered outside of an arena, and we did very well except for a tendency to drift out on corners (no railing to guide him through the turns!). As far as the test went, we did okay – we had a few mistakes but of course the point of the exercise, for me, was to see how well we’d do with up and down transitions at specific points in the arena. We had to trot from one letter to another, then pick up canter before another letter, then make a circle of a specific size, then drop back to trot or walk by a certain point. It was really fun, and Zeke did a great job with those transitions. Cindy said he looked very light and his gaits were nice, which is great for our first time through.

So Saturday was a high point, then I couldn’t ride again until Tuesday night. And man what a mess that was! I’ve decided now that if I’m going to skip more than one day, I need to allow him to have some turn-out time before riding. What happened that day was I took him to the round pen for warm up, to get the fresh out of him. I should, by now, have realized that he’s too smart for that. He barely moved in that round pen, trudging along like he didn’t have a spark of excess energy, so I stopped and took him right up to the wood arena to ride.

Big mistake. He was obviously faking in the round pen, not showing any effort because he knows there’s nowhere to go! In the arena, he took off like a shot, first trotting away with me and then just running off. I had to grab the rein all the way down by his bit to get him turned into a circle to make him stop. So…back to the round pen we went, this time with a whip so I could make him run.

And he did, this time showing me he was so full of energy that it was a long time before he wanted to stop. When he was finally all sweaty and puffing, I got back on in the round pen and rode a little while. It wasn’t any fun.

Wednesday I turned him out for 20 minutes before I got on, and he played a bit, but  mainly I think it just gave him some mental free time, time to stretch and just not be in his stall. Then I got on, and we had a wonderful ride! We worked on spiraling circles, coming off my leg, turns on the hindquarters and forehand, and making different size circles even at the canter. When we got done, we walked out of the wood arena, and for the first time went into the big pasture arena. I rode at the walk all over the pasture, we went under the cowboy shower framework, and even over the bridge! We also opened and closed the mailbox, and walked through the back-through. His backing is getting pretty good, but not easy enough yet to add change of direction during the back-up.

So then today was another nice day, we rode in the wood arena and started to work a bit more on canter. Cindy said it’s time to start being tougher on leads – up until now I’ve just been happy that if I asked for canter he responded. He gets his leads correctly about 75% of the time, with the left lead more often being the problem one. So from now on I’ll be working on asking for a canter departure with a bit more of an exaggerated push of the hind end – pushing the hip to the inside while I ask with the outside leg. If he takes the wrong lead we’ll be stopping more quickly to fix it, rather than just ignoring as long as he’s cantering. 

And soon enough we need to get out on the trails – there just wasn’t time this week, bit it’ll be happening soon! I guess you could say we’re moving along at a nice pace. And it’s definitely fun!

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