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!