Friday, May 8, 2009

The practical final!

So over the last two semesters I've been taking Bear to a weekly class. I like it because I have a covered arena to work in and someone to scoop me up off the ground should Bear finally realize he's bigger and stronger than me! But it is a class non the less, and last week we didn't ride because we took the written final, and this Tuesday (while I was on a plane coming back from Portland) we had the practical final. Its a real class so it has real tests, but within reason since everyone is taking it for personal enrichment! So since I missed our test night with Horse Training II, I had to go to Thursday's Horse Training III class, and yes, he had me do THEIR final instead! And I KICKED BUTT! Or at least I would have if I hadn't convinced myself it was too hard... I hadn't been on him for over two weeks, and we haven't done that much work at the canter, so I had convinced myself that we couldn't do these canter circles! I totally underestimated both of us... here's the pattern.So we started at the very bottom at the cone (where I forgot to write start). The directions were: trot (to the left) two large circles, then two small circles, then pick up the canter for two large and two small circles, stop reverse, and repeat to the right. We'll stop here for comment on what actually happened! When I got in, the instructor sort of said that I didn't have to do the canter part if I didn't want to. Which set up doubt in my mind suddenly. We've been cantering circles some, and we've certainly been steering around things (like evil horses that try to attack us if we come within 20 ft of them!). BUT we've also had the dropping the shoulder and falling to the inside problem that I had just started to address at that dressage lesson. Since we've not had a chance to do the same exercizes at the canter, I didn't think he'd stay balanced enough to do the small circles. So when I was suddenly given an option to take the easy way out, I wanted to do just that. I said we'd try the canter circles as long as they didn't count against us if we didn't nail them! So going to the left we trotted two perfect large circles, and two perfect small! I was so impressed! I just kept thinking sit up and keep him going on a nice relaxed, balanced trot, not so forward that we start falling on the front! It totally worked. We picked up the canter pretty much at the cone, (wow!) and it was even the correct lead (double wow!) and he did fairly well until we came around to the side where the serpentine cones were set up. (Even when I drew this I realized the circle was hitting the cones!) We ended up on the outside of the second cone the first time, and running it over the second time! Which of course caused us to break to the trot, and get all flustered and unbalanced, and since I had just been told that I could take the easy way out I did. I trotted on more small circle and stopped at the start and called the left side done! I took a deep breath and did the it all again to the right, except this time I did it right! No running over trail obstacles, no breaking gait, just a perfect balance trot and canter for both large AND small circles! I was on cloud nine! He was so good! It was such a victory, I just wished I had been more dertimined to make it happen both directions.
From there it was easier; here's the pattern again for reference:

After the circles it was a jog serpentine through the cones, back through the L, a 360 degree pivot on the haunches both directions inside the box, over the bridge, and right hand push through the gate. I was really impressed with his cones, he just went right through them at a nice slow sitting trot. Then he's great on backing up! Super light and willing to please. We took a bit to figure out where to put his hind-end while getting around the corner of the L, but overall it was great. The box was tough because it was so tight. So while he did have a few times where he really moved his shoulders cross over his front feet there were a lot of repositioning his hind end so we could stay in the box. The bridge was fine, and we even collected for the slightest pause on top to show he was listening to me to either stop or keep going. Our go at the gate was probably our best one yet! He's so relaxed about these things! I just love it.

He's such a fun horse to work with, and I just need to start trusting that he is capable of more! Both this and the show I thought would be challenges for him, but he's taking it all in stride! I can't believe what a great horse he's turned into. This final was a great test for me to really see where he's at! He's beyond where I thought I'd have him in just 4 months under saddle. In fact he's beyond most retrain projects that I've shown in the past! They've all had anxiety issues about one thing or another! We're at a great place in training, and he doesn't need to know anything else until he's a bit older!

For now I'm looking forward to lots of trail rides and conditioning for a while. I'm totally broke, so shows and lessons will have to wait until we both can really benefit from them. He could used some consistant lunging with side-reins to help him develop the right muscles in his neck. Other than that, unless I can think of someone I could trust to ride him while I'm gone, he'll have 6 weeks off during the height of the summer, and we'll be figuring out our next step in the fall. But he's only 3 and already acting like a well broke horse. I can't really ask for anything else.

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