Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Managing to have fun with two horses!

So last Saturday I had a friend come out to the ride with me on the trails at the lake! I figured since she was coming out, I would have her test ride Lola since she needs to have some experience of other people on her back. Then I sort of thought, why not have her just ride her once we got out to the trails too? So I got to ride Bear! A nice treat since I'm used to giving him up since I sort of consider him the safe bet. At this point she's come so far that she's probably the nicer ride now!

We had a blast! Much more challenging trail than I had planned, but they both did well. We even convinced them to go into the lake up to their knees! So fun, and I've already booked another friend to come out this Saturday! If I could spend at least one day a week on the trail between now and when I sell Lola, I will count this whole working to keep up two horses thing as worth it!

Tonight we had another good "post lesson" ride. I cantered him, which was a blast because its the thing that he's so good at and I have to work harder with Lola with that (but then again she stops on a dime...) They all have their strengths and weaknesses.... Anyway, it was fun, and I'm exhausted, so it must be time for bed.

Two big new flashes:

His feet seem to be too big for the "most awesome and too damn expensive" easy boot slip on's that I bought him last fall. Grrr.... He did fine on the trail though without them.

I can't see his ribs anymore!!! I realized today, that although I can still feel them, I can't see his ribs! Amazing what two weeks will do! He'll be a whole new horse in another two weeks. He doesn't seem to have any problems with the fact that he's not in pasture... Although now that I think about it, he did buck some good ones on the lunge line... So I'll start over... With regular turn out in the huge outdoor arena where he can play and be silly like he would in pasture, I don't see any drawbacks to having him in a large paddock instead. Let's hope he stays a happy, healthy, sane, fattened up, and un-injured horse for awhile!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ok, so I'm too excited not to brag...

The dressage schooling show that I went to on Sunday posted the scores today. I got high score of the day!!! Unbelievable! Little ol' me on a mare that I've trained, at her first dressage show, and, get this, MY first dressage show! Ok, so there wasn't a huge turn out of people. But still... I am just blown away, and super proud.

So none of this has anything to do with Bear, and yet has everything to do with Bear. I have so much more confidence and motivation to start getting him out to some shows once I'm back from the summer.

Plus its a huge personal victory.

I'll go back to being humble now...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First real ride in AGES...

Tonight started with my lesson on Lola... (You can see the full description on her blog http://mytrainingproject.blogspot.com/ which might help since I don't want to run through it twice!) I'll be doing Tuesday night lessons with her until she sells, and since its a night I don't see my boyfriend anyway, I have the time to ride Bear afterward. This worked out great tonight since I could take all the exercises I had just been working on with Lola and apply them to where Bear is in his training.

So here's where he's at now:

He's come out of pasture in great shape. His canter looks awesome on the lunge line, nice and uphill and light.

He's focused and responsive to what I'm asking while lunging. He's getting back into the swing of things with the side reins.

The only rides I've done on him for the last two months have been bareback, so we just did circles, steering, little yielding shoulders or haunches, and picking up the trot for 5 to 10 steps then coming back down to the walk.

Here's where he was at this time last year:

Working well at walk, trot, and canter.

Accepting the contact, although never really on the bit.

Usually heavy on the forehand and rushing forward a bit. Needing work on tempo.

If I really held him together, we could for a do steady and reasonably balanced walk, trot, canter on a 20 meter circle with changes in direction from circle to straight.


He really got the concept of accepting the contact and maintaining a bend.

By the end we were able to do a walk-trot-walk transition that was balanced, with a bend to the inside, and with acceptance of the bit.

His tempo is great.

He is happy to be worked again, and it was a total light bulb turning on sort of night!

How it came together:

So we started out with small circles to ask for a lot of bend and encourage him to make contact with the outside rein and then even reach down for the bit. (Again, Lola's blog has got the scoop.) He wasn't really getting it. He was trying, but only succeeding in stiffly turning his head in. I awarded some near success by changing direction or walking off to another part of the arena, then tried again and again. Still not much.

Next we started the never ending trot circle. This is something that we did in the very first lesson with Lola. Focusing on tempo and rhythm and maintaining a steady contact even when they are resisting. He did that a ton... giraffe trotting around like I'm tearing at his face. I kept up the patiently keeping a light but steady contact no matter where he put his head, and he started, just a little to accept it. Still no bend, still no reaching for the bit. Again I rewarded the tiniest effort, but no real break through.

Back to walk circle exercise, and FLASH! The light bulb goes on. He suddenly gets round in his neck, bends both directions when asked, maintained a slight bend along the straight parts, AND started stretching his nose to the ground when I fed out the reins while pushing him along with my legs. What a difference!

So we tried it at the trot to the left. Start him bending and push him into the trot while keeping that bend. Magic! He's suddenly trotting so much better! Unbelievable difference from the resistance before. I even sort of thought it was a fluke. Like he was better on his left, and it was his right that caused the problem. So back to the right, and he was just as a amazing! He just plain got it. Of course he's not perfectly steady about the contact, and once he got it both directions so well I was so floored that I hopped off and gave him a big hug! He's taken the big step of understanding what I'm asking, now we just need the time to build up the consistency.

I'm really looking forward to getting him back into training mode. As much as I love Lola, somehow Bear is just more of my type of horse. I just feel better on him, which is good, since he's the one I'm keeping! I am going to make the most out of my lessons by applying the week's homework to both horses, and I really think he'll catch up to her in no time.

It felt so good to really be back at it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh good boy Bear!!!

I'm slowly but surely getting Bear back into the swing of things. I hopped on him bareback on Friday, just because I had so little time. I had turned him out in the big arena to run around and buck while I lunged Lola. She didn't get ridden because we were going to have back to back shows this weekend. So then I let her go and threw a bridle on him and hopped on with the bareback pad. He was great. We worked on lots of big circles, and then small circles, keeping a bend. We worked on walk halt transitions, since he's pretending to forget this one, he stops, just not perfectly. It doesn't help that I'm comparing him to Lola who has stopped on a dime since the day I got on her!

Then today after the show with Lola, I got Bear out to work. I threw the western saddle on him since we'll be starting up teaching my boyfriend how to work and ride him, and we'll be going out for lots of trail rides with friends now that the weather is awesome. Once I had it all cinched down, I realized there was not clearance at his withers! The saddle just doesn't fit anymore! Its so frustrating because this is the saddle I broke him in! It should fit! Why doesn't it fit? He lost so much weight at the other boarding place... I haven't had it on him since January when I was using him to pony Lola. Then he started loosing weight because it was a cold hard winter, but he never gained it back despite 15 acres of green spring grass. Hopefully we're back on our way to being up to weight.

I lunged him in the saddle anyway, but he twisted and kicked out with front and back feet when he picked up the canter like it was pinching him. He got over it quick, so I don't think it was all that bad. Still, once I finished lunging him with the sided reins I took the saddle off and threw it on the fence and got on bareback instead. He's such a good boy. We did lots of walk work, circles, halts, moving his shoulders or haunches around, then halts. We even did some little walk-jog-walk transitions, keeping it really slow so that I didn't get bounced right off! I want him to be very cautious about his rider being secure on his back when my boyfriend gets on him, so bareback is a good warm up for that.

Watching him canter on the lunge line makes me realize how much he's matured since last spring. He's so light and graceful on the lunge line! I just love watching him!

Still most of the big new is over on Lola's blog. We had our first dressage show today! Video and everything! Check it out. http://mytrainingproject.blogspot.com I'm just beaming I'm so proud! Now that I've broken into the world of dressage shows (or I should say small community of local dressage schooling shows) I feel a whole lot more confident about getting out there and doing it! I hope to have Bear doing Training level tests this fall once I'm back from the summer.