Monday, April 20, 2009

The challenge of the 'forward' horse

Today was more what I had been expecting on Friday from the Tiki man. I started to get lazy and just groom today after I rode Chester and Reley, but I got worried about the weather and had NO idea if rain was in the cards. It was looking pretty gray and inclement, so I decided to kick myself in the butt and get the boy out.

Did a 'quick' groom, threw the tack on, and headed out to the front pasture. Mounted softly and walked into the arena in my 2-point. The footing was pretty bad; very wet and sloppy. Tiki walked very carefully and did a much better job of not walking around like a giraffe. Asked for a trot, and he was so awkward, he felt lame. Shook his head, sucked up his back, and kicked up a little. His trot step was so tiny and fast, I took pity on him and went back out into the pasture. Once there, I got back in 2-point because I was concerned about his back being 'cold'; plus, he still felt off. I was convinced it was just the footing because even though the pasture itself was a *little* better, it was still very wet and sloppy.

Tried something a little different. Trotting in 2-point, I felt him swing his butt around, shake his head, and snort a little. I let him out. I didn't half halt and ask him to slow down, I let him slide off into a little gallop. I allowed it to happen for about 3 minutes, then pulled him down to a walk on a loose rein. Let him blow out and snort, stretched his neck out, then went back to the trot. I worked HARD at making sure he was going FORWARD without going FAST. He is SO light in his mouth, he just goes slow without taking any contact with the bit. Then when he decides to get fast, I have to pull on him to get slower. He doesn't have consistent contact; that's our challenge.

I worked on keeping my elbows bent, and used a LOT of leg to push him forward. Once he finally took the bit and began to round and drop his head, his rhythm got much more consistent and reasonable. My boss has a theory. A *forward* horse needs twice as much leg as a *lazy* horse. Riders get in trouble when they ride their "hot" horse with no contact; either with the reins or the leg. That's when they start jumping and their horse decides to bolt down to the jumps, because it doesn't know how to accept contact and stay on the bit. That is always my challenge to remember with Tiki. So, I WORKED today. Really pushed him forward, squeezed and released my hand and got him coming up through the back and into the bridle. Cantered left and he was good. Had to ask 4 times for the right lead, and once he got it I actually posted to it to keep him on it. Let him catch a break as a reward, then turned to the jump.

I worked over the 2' vertical that's been set up for awhile. First few times, he cantered the last few strides. Worked some more and he felt a little better each time. Finished when I asked for the trot, and his neck just got ROUND, and his trot was easy and rhythmic, and he trotted 100% the same all the way down to the base of the jump. This was one of the first days we've started out not so great, and ended up pretty darn good. I'm the proud mama!:):)

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