After a week of rain, the barn was finally a little drier on Saturday, and I dragged J with me to soak up some sun and take pictures out in the field. I figured after a week of not getting out, the best thing I could do for Val was just let him work off some steam out in the field with minimal fussing.
He was super cute and happy to see me, which melts my heart every time. It was probably just for extra cookies, but nickering to me across the field and marching to the gate sure worked.
Since the normal path to the field was super muddy and squishy, we had to take the longer route that involved going down the driveway a bit, and then up past all of our round bales. There were still just a couple of muddy puddles to get through, but Val cautiously went through and got a cookie on the other side for his efforts (thanks Catie for writing such a good post about using treats for training because it’s definitely working for us!) and then we marched out into the field. On our way out to the main, softer part, a jackrabbit leapt up out of the tall grass and spooked Val, who then stared after it. He was looking for it for the rest of the ride.
I know I mentioned it in my last post too, but I really just love how he goes out in our new field. He feels much more loose and relaxed and right from the get go really wants to move out instead of shuffling. Maybe it’s the long, loose rein walk he gets to do first, or just the fact that he’s got places to be, but whatever it is, it’s working. I’m going to make a real effort to keep riding out here 1-2x a week at least, and I think it’s going to make a difference in fitness and strength for both of us.
We trotted all over the field for a solid 20 minutes or so with just a few walk breaks in between, working on shortening and lengthening with nothing much harder than that.
Did I mention it was also a beautiful day for a gallop? Because it really was. It was sunny and in the 70s and we took full advantage. To the right, it was a very nice hand gallop. It was quite enjoyable, and definitely fast, and he swapped leads on me when I tried to slow down which made me giggle. Once I’d gotten his blood pumping a little, I was also able to get in some good, more collected work. It wasn’t real collection at all, but I was able to actually package him a little and he allowed me to carry some real contact without any head flinging. It wasn’t beautiful by any means, but I think it’s a strategy I’ll keep using to get him more relaxed about pushing into the bridle.
When we went to the left though, Val really exploded. In the best way. The very first time I asked him to open into a gallop a few months ago, he wasn’t sure what I was asking. And even to the right for this ride, he was like “wee fast canter!” But to the left, when I got up in 2-point and floated my reins at him he figured. it. out. I was grinning from ear to ear (while also praying there were no gopher holes) because I could really feel all of his muscles bunching and pushing for a true gallop as we flew across the ground. It’s a mildly terrifying experience, but you really haven’t lived until you’ve galloped a thoroughbred.
We did more of the same canter work after our little gallop, and he was a leeeettle more pumped than after the first canter, but still gave me pretty decent work. Where he really shined was the trot work after, when he was so loose that he stepped on himself and ripped off a shoe. Womp womp. To his credit, I think he might have been at 7 weeks because the farrier didn’t get to him last week with the nasty weather. (Oops. Bad owner.) But with the great, springy footing, he was still sound for a nice cool out, stretchy trot before we walked all the way back to the barn. J and I spent a good 5-10 minutes looking for the stupid shoe, but we never did track it down.
Sunday he got the day off what with the missing shoe and 30+mph winds, but I think we should be back into a routine this week.
My original plan for January was to really buckle down and work hard, but with all the weird weather that’s been tricky. All the same, we are having a lot of fun, and I think rides like this are going to be just as good for us as a good flat ride in the ring.