You may be noticing a theme over here at The Graduated Equestrian: I keep gushing about how great Val has been. With a few exceptions (because horses) he’s been so game, and willing, and just plain fun to ride and work with since we’ve finally been getting back into work. Friday we schooled a few courses in the dark that were kind of wild and wooly and all over, but Val finally took a deep breath and cantered right up to a nice deep distance to rock back and sail over the single oxer we were doing, and I knew he’d decided to do things my way. I let him off the hook after that, because sometimes it’s enough for them to acknowledge that they understood the question, and know how to give the right answer.
Saturday was a flat day like normal, and I decided to school changes. Val came off the track with auto changes, which is great. But it also means I never school them, and when he occasionally does miss one, he’s not great at changing when I ask. He also tends to get pissy if I school them too much, but I felt like I had the right horse on Saturday to work on them a little. At first he wanted to fling his head and run through the change, and I had to remind myself to set him up correctly so that what I was asking was super clear, because he only kind of knows the cue for a change since I never have to use it.
We’ve done a lot of counter canter work to build muscle and make sure he knows that everything we do is intentional and purposeful. I have found that with horses that have an auto change, schooling the counter canter before schooling changes works well to make sure they are really paying attention, and understand the cues for different leads. I definitely think this paid off, because after a couple of sticky changes, we got some really nice, balanced changes each way. Once we were done, he immediately asked to do long and low trot work, so I of course obliged.
After all of this hard work, Val got a bath with shampoo and conditioner (see super shiny coat above!) and he got to graze until he was almost all the way dry before going out with his buddies to eat dinner.
Side note: Val goes out with two almost 3 yr old stallions who are both bigger than he is, and somehow he is boss over both of them. He’s got a big attitude smushed in a very compact package! It made me giggle to watch him shove his face into the bucket one of them was eating out of, with no complaints from Marley, who wandered over to another bucket instead.
Sunday we schooled courses again, and if he was a little rusty last week, this week he was so in tune and ready for anything, that I actually over-corrected several times. He was super handy and clever, and we found almost every jump from a near perfect distance. For the last course we put some of the jumps up to about 3′-3’3 and it felt comfortable for both of us. My horse was quiet and happy and mostly going around with a loose rein, happily compacting and opening his stride without fuss wherever I asked, using seat and leg only, and the tiniest lifting of my reins.
After this lesson, I have no doubt in my mind that given 3 more weeks, we will definitely be ready for a 3’6 class in San Antonio. He’s been brave and happy, and so rideable, that it’s impossible not to be excited. I’m crossing my fingers that it stays nice weather wise for the rest of winter (It was 80 degrees on Sunday!) but I have a feeling we’re due for at least one more cold front.
How did you take advantage of the lovely weather this weekend? Or are you somewhere that still has melting snow?
P.S. If you are still on the fence about ordering goodies from My Selleria because you’re unsure about shipping or customer service, a barn friend reported that she ordered her Samshield on Jan. 28th, and received it today, along with a free pair of gloves. All in all, she was super pleased with the price, speed, and service provided.