Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Always the riders fault :)

We have been working cantering lately and it has been slow going and riddled with issues. Ahm. One issue. My death grip on the reins to be exact. Turns out, if i force myself to keep the reins loose (read: nearly floppy) the canter is much, much better. No bucking, no rushing, no panicking. I asked, he cantered-no fussing or fighting. He still needs help around the corners, but he always has- even on the longe. He was slower and calmer than ever before. Because I let go of his face. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we are working on a lot of long and low work with his neck. I want him to find his most comfortable head position and choose to have contact with my hands through the reins. So far, at the walk and trot, he has been doing lots of that. He streches low and remains in good contact with my hands. He only streches out when he is relaxed and having a long rein (not loose, with contact) and doing circles and figure eights seems to relax him. So, my goal for him is to continue riding the walk and trot on a long rein with soft contact and to start adding the canter. I feel confident that he will eventually have the same reaction at the canter as he has at the walk and trot. If I keep the reins the same length as at the trot, right now he has a high head, but I think he will come down and look for contact. Having a loose rein already slowed him down and kept him relaxed so I thinkonly good things can come of this.

We would have worked more today but I noticed that his poops (he had three durin our ride) were getting progressivly softer. Having lots of poops while we ride is normal, but they were pretty soft (more on that later). So, we finished up by working on neck reining and walking shapes. Riding for OU is what made me discover how wonderful neck reining is, even on english horses. In Polo, you ride with regular reins and a set of draw reins. You hold them all in your left hand and hold the mallet in the right hand. The horses must all neck rein and turn off of body position/weight. One of the best horses OU had was an old mare named Amanda who was dontated by Sunny Hale (top female player in the world). Amanda was who we put all beginners on because she could play the game by herself. But, we always had to warn people to make sure they are ready if they turn their head, because she would cut in whatever direction you looked, especially if you were following the ball! Anyway, neck reining is invaluable on all horses, especially those who will be used for trail riding or those who may ever be expected to open a gate. That being said, Boomer and I are working on neck reining at the end of every ride.

About the soft poop, I think it was a reaction to the dewormer yesterday. I am not worried about it, but I did add some salt to his food today. If he is still poopy tomorrow, I will call Dr. Hawkins and see what he thinks.

Before we rode, I put shipping boots on all four of his legs and it was pretty funny. He lifted his back legs slooooowwwlllyyy up all of the way and set them down just as carefully. I let him graze in the round pen for a while and get used to them. He was pretty happy with that deal!

Overall, I am very happy with our progress so far. The trailer should be ready in about...31 days, not that I am counting. Right now, I want to continue working on relaxing the canter and then our next big goal will be working on getting into the trailer.

I have a few ideas so far for trailer training. Of course, everything is as flexable as the horse needs it to be. I think I will spend the first week feeding him in it and working on being around it. I will let him go in and out as he pleases to eat. The next week, I will feed him in it and shut the back gate for progressivly longer periods of time. The third week, I will start over and shut the middle gate for progressivly longer periods of time. The fourth week, I will start the truck and leave it running while he is locked inside and eating. After that, we will just work on going in and out on command and being calm while we drive around the property. Beyond that, I start dreaming too much about trail riding and lakes and summer days...

Spring fever, here I come!!!

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