Sunday, February 26, 2012

Looking sporty!

Maybe he really goes quieter in these ear bonnets, maybe I just think he looks cute in them, either way, he's now got one in black and one in brown, and I LOVE them!

He is sensitive about things tickling his ears when we ride. Even though we don't have much of a bug problem this early in the season, I do think it helped keep the wind out of his ears for yesterday's lesson. We had some crazy gusts! So the addition of the cute head gear, the jumping saddle instead of the dressage saddle, and the breast collar that I usually only use for cross country, all made for quite the sporty looking pony! Everyone commented!

Bear just turned 6 a few weeks ago, and since he's an adult, its time for him to get a job! We are officially starting over fences. YEAH! That was why I was looking so sporty for my dressage lesson. We worked on many of the usual things for the first part of the lesson, and then we took him through a gymnastic at the end. He was a little clumsy trying to sort out where his feet go, but he got the idea quickly. More importantly, he felt so relaxed and solid through it that it almost felt like he was already trained. Love it! It was still a cross rail of no more than a foot at the low point, but it was the biggest thing we've jumped so far, and he felt so good!

So we've gone about all of the possible options to prepare for jumping over the last few months. We've trotted tiny cross-rail courses, we've done trot poles, we've cantered over a pole on the ground, we've trotted logs on cross country and the trail, now we have finally jumped a beginner gymnastic (guide pole, cross rail, guide pole) AND added a second canter stride pole after with another little jump a few strides out. He's super relaxed about all of it! Next will be cantering in to the gymnastic and cantering a course of poles. I also think I'd like to free jump him again. I haven't done it for well over a year, and didn't jump him over more than 2ft then since he wasn't in great shape. I'd like to see his form over larger fences now, both to see what his style is like and to convince myself he's got the jump in him to later move up.

In the mean time, we are working on cantering conditioning at two point with the idea of working up to 5 minutes. I really need the work (right now ONE minute kills me!), but it has also been a big change for him to have me up out of the saddle. So we are doing lots of extend-collect transitions in two point to get him to understand what I'm asking now that I'm not able to sit down and use my seat.

I'm off to take him out on the trail now. Hoping he'll be quiet and sensible so that we can work on this canter excercise out in the open.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On a roll!

We've been slowly but steadily working back towards our fitness from last fall. Back in November Bear came up with a slight hind-end lameness (think he must have slipped in the pasture and over stretched something) so he was pared back to gentle work. Add to that Christmas craziness and a two weeks in France and you can imagine he wasn't getting out much. Now in mid-February I feel like we've finally caught up and can start progressing again.

Our dressage lessons are going well, and I'm getting the better quality trot work from him more often. He canter is his strong point, and after our lesson yesterday I feel he's gaining stamina there too. The most improved is his walk. With the slow work we focused on only walking. This change of pace helped him mentally not to be overly eager to trot again. Plus we've been walking poles and small caveletti to build the strength in his hind end that seemed to be troubling him.

I've got video from the second part of yesterday's lesson. We're still working on submission, that darn camel impression keeps popping up! Ugly, counter-productive, AND he's managing to hit me with his green drool! He was getting tired, and started stumbling in the back. I hope that will go away with more strength.

Both leads are coming along nicely, but cleaning up the departs is a big item on the to-do list before our goal of cantering the Intro Test C at the end of March.

I'm looking at starting him over fences in the next few weeks, so we made our cross country debut without really jumping! A friend and I hauled out last weekend to a local place called Jack Rabbit Flats, and had a blast! We started, as we always did when I was taking Lola out there, with some trotting around the one-mile perimeter track. We did this each way with walk breaks and then picked up the canter starting left lead. Bear is favoring his right lead lately, and on a straight away like that he chose right. I let him continue anyway, but picked up the left before we got to the turn. Then to make it even, after we had changed directions I made him pick up the left for the straight-away and trotted the change to right lead before the turn. My friend and I were both focused on a good quality collected canter as this was Bear's first time cantering in the open with a friend. I was really impressed! He put all his excited energy into the canter without getting strong. I got such a fantastic rocking-horse canter I was blown away. SO fun.

Then we got to schooling. Bear learned about water, banks, and at least one ditch (a scary one too!). I got a quick video of the water and banks, but we were too busy playing follow the leader with the ditch to get video of each other.

He thew a fit going into the water the second time, but not because of the water. He was bulging his shoulder, and I tapped it with the crop to remind him to listen to my knee to straighten that side. That was clearly quite offensive to him! ;)

I was very please with him, despite his overly eager head tossing! Ugh. He was pretty calm and cool about the whole thing. I hope to have him jumping little stuff by the time we go back next month.