Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend's worth of rides, under the cuts.

Took His Highness out back to one of the jump fields with two goals in mind: get him a bit better through working up and down hills, and test out the accelerator and brakes before the hunter pace on Sunday.

Through - and occasionally soft - was much, much better than I could have hoped for. He was able to keep his hind end somewhat engaged both up and down hills, and after 15 minutes or so of warming up, around corners. We played around, threading jumps, up and down hills. He even offered a canter a few times, especially going uphill. On the one hand, it was technically evasion; on the other, he NEVER offers a canter and then actually follows through on it. I let him go, and he came back from it easily.

Brakes worked out mostly well save for one incident. I was trying to confirm a left-lead canter/hand gallop down the long side. His left lead canter has reacted to attempts at being through by not being as expressive as I would hope. Embarrassingly, I'm occasionally having trouble spotting the lead. So I wanted to get a nice transition, then a circle, then send him down the long side to work up some speed. Circle went fine 3/4 of the way around, and then faced with maybe 3-4 of open room left before he would have to complete it, he jerked his head around, pivoted on his hind legs, swapped leads, and BOLTED down the long side to the right. (Picture a circle in the corner, with his option to go down either side.) He surprised me enough that there was a distinct moment of hanging in the air over his left shoulder. I remember quite clearly thinking "What? Huh? Oh, HELL no." Shoved myself back in the saddle, brought him back down, and put him back in the corner. Four more bolts right, kept my seat just fine, and on the last try I made the circle more like 12 meters than 20 and did.not.let.him. even think about going right. He came through it after much fighting, picked up speed down the long side, and I dropped the reins and let him be done. We cooled out with a bit of a stroll through the woods.

Sunday morning I got to the barn to find my idiot horse impossible to catch; just kept walking away. Poor Frosty, who I was also fetching, followed me patiently as I walked after Tristan for about 10 minutes. I put Frosty in the barn and yelled back at Tristan that maybe I'd just take this OTHER, nicer pony to the hunter pace. When I went back out for Tristan, armed with treats, he walked right up to me, ears pricked, even before he knew I had treats. Spaz.

Trailer-loading was...sub-optimal. Swerving, backing, and then as is his wont, one big OKAY, FINE and he stepped up fully and stood quietly for Hannah to do up the butt bar. She remarked that he refuses so completely and vehemently for so long, and then gives over all in one wave and is great after that. He just has to make his case.

Trailer ride however, did not go so well; Tucker couldn't find his balance, and was scrambling badly enough that we headed back to the barn to find he'd cut himself. We called it a day, and while I was helping with Tucker, dumped the hay bag in front of Tristan's stall. Turned around a few minutes later to find that he had upended the entire bag and created his own little buffet in a 5' ring around his stall door in the aisle and was leaning over the stall guard, taking a piece, and watching everything in very contemplative fashion.

I opted for a short dressage school in the outdoor. I had some energy to work with, probably a combination of trailer stress + outdoor ring + neighbors across the street sawing metal. It was great - it's pretty rare that I get to work with jittery energy instead of sluggishness, at least in dressage. 15 minutes or so of suppling and circles and he came through wonderfully. He's not really a horse that gets springy and light; he gets light, but there's *power* behind it, a great big wave of push with each stride. It's really neat to feel when he can put it all together.

So we worked that trot for a while, and then I asked for some canter to play with that energy, and - oh, niiiiiiice. Some of the best canter work we've ever done, heavy as an anvil on the forehand but trying SO HARD, and several glorious strides of that deep in the saddle, sitting with the horse instead of just on the horse connection. Both directions! I was holding him up far more than I'd like, but for him to even let me hold him up - especially in the left lead - was so, so huge. Cooled out with a walk around the big field out back - and a trot through the stream to get there, his first trot through water under saddle - totally unphased! Atta boy. :D

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