Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rein control

Today was interesting as Boomer was quite full of himself from the moment I haltered him. I suspect it has something to do with the added pound of alfalfa pellets. I was hoping he wouldn't be sensitive to them, but he really gets big energy out of anything extra in his feed. Anyhow, I lunged him first anticipating some residual issues with the whole 'arena door being open' thing even thought the door was closed today. Sure enough, it took a few minutes to work through but he was very good. After about 15 minutes of lunging I got on and as I was adjusting my stirrups, a big chunk of snow slid off of the arena roof. I had been dreading that moment for a few weeks now, as another lady had that happen and almost fell off when her horse spooked and bolted. Boomer, but the enigma that he is, just stood there and looked up at the ceiling with his ears forward.

Boomer was very snorty today and I was getting a little irritated about all of his nonsense. He has a few spots that he doesn't like to pass close to the rail, so he bends away from them and tries to come off the rail. It is very frustrating as he ignores my leg and using my rein just bends him more. So, we just do small circles until he gets over it (for the day... or moment). We did some cantering which was OK, but not great and after a few rounds of cantering I let him have a light rein and trot around.

*I have three levels of rein control that I use on a daily basis. First is loose- that is loopy, on the buckle work where we neck rein and use legs to communicate. We use this to warm up and cool down. Next is light rein- where I have him long and low, he gets to set his head and I have just enough contact to feel his mouth, but not enough to do any fine tuning. He has to earn this contact and he usually does so about halfway through the ride. I know when he has earned it when I offer it and he doesn't rush or throw his nose straight into the air. This is also what we do over trot poles and on Gymnastic Fridays. Last is collected contact- here I have enough contact to bring his head in to me or to drive him into the bit. He is a bit more 'up' and we can really work on flexion and using the reins together to give various more complicated aids. This is what we use for much of our 'work'.*

So, after some cantering, I gave Boomer the light rein and trotted around. Usually, he trots big and stretches then slows down to a jog and relaxes while we do circles and serpentines. However, today he was just power trotting around. Not, leg flinging, high headed trotting, but a good solid posting trot. That is something I usually have to beg for! He was stretching his neck and working the bit and was having a grand ole time! We trotted like that for probably 5-10 minutes and he was just so forward and animated! It was a really great feeling! I asked him to canter and forced myself to continue to have the light rein and was so surprised by him! He was relaxed and carried himself with such grace! No rushing, no motorcycle turns. He listened to my legs and would even yield towards the rail or go over the 'scary' sun patches on the ground. He kept up the canter for at least 5 laps on his own at a nice even pace without trying to trot. We went the same amount on the other direction and then did more trotting on the light rein. Even after all of that work, he just kept on trotting with the same energy and focus. We finally cooled out and walked on a loose rein working on straight lines and called it a day.

What started out as a frustrating ride very quickly turned in to one I was thrilled with and so proud of! I really liked his added energy and enthusiasm once he applied it correctly and wasn't being a dingbat! I was really impressed that he had that much to give and offered it willingly! We rode for the same amount of time as usual, but he just put more energy into it than usual. Rather than spending most of our time in the sitting trot/jog, we spent most of our time at the posting trot and canter.


joshu said...

Very nice post!

Story said...

I had a "roof snow" moment a couple days ago that resulted in some unplanned for acceleration. Just another joy of winter.

Nice that you were able to work through the scary parts of the arena. I can't believe my girl is still giving me issues with the back rail after 4 months. And it's just like you describe...ignoring the inside leg completely and the inside rein just seems to make things worse. Of course she never does that to the trainer...

My previous mare was an Arabian and I think there was no greater feeling than when we were able to channel her high energy into strong athletic forward movement. I loved her hot but sensible days. If only they didn't happen so rarely lol.

Heather said...

I was really surprised that he was better about the rail when I had him on a light/loose rein and was only using my legs to yield him over. It is irritating that he still has issues with passing certain areas even though we see them 3-4 times a week. But, I'm really hoping we can recreate that feeling from our ride yesterday! It really was awesome! I could tell he was having fun too, which is the important part since we are stuck inside for the winter!