Ok, so it wasn’t 75 this weekend, but it was sunny and gorgeous all weekend, and I took full advantage of that by spending as much time at the barn with Val as possible. Somebody wanted to watch the Broncos beat the Pats on Sunday, so no lesson footage, but I do have some pretty cool pictures from our awesome flat ride on Saturday.
This ride, I gradually made things harder, but I also didn’t go easy on him just because he was a little frazzled. I obviously didn’t push past what he could handle, but I asked him to be really grown up and push through even if he wasn’t sure what was being asked, or didn’t think he wanted to do it. We first walked around and practiced bending and moving laterally, along with walk-halt and back to a walk without rushing, or dragging his feet.
Then we trotted around a bit, going back and forth across the arena once he was a bit more warmed up, practicing extending and opening across the diagonal, and shortening and packaging across the short side. Once he was pretty loose, we worked on all of our lateral movements at the trot.
All of this slow but meaningful warm up was really helpful in getting him loose in the shoulder and pushing from behind.
Finally we moved into the canter, which right off the bat was pretty nice. Not choppy or upside down like it often can be. We did a lot of bending at the canter, extending and compacting, and many halts. Of all the exercises, halting was the hardest, because his brain was so engaged in going forward.
Once we were finally halted and standing still, the next tricky part was walking out of the halt. Val is too smart for his own good, and he knows that usually when we do this exercise, part of the goal is to improve his canter departs, so as soon as we step out of the halt, he tries to canter off. The goal this time was to breathe and pay attention, so we had a lot of jigging. Regardless, he kept his brain, and I couldn’t be mad that he was trying to think ahead and learn the exercise.
We ended our canter work with one last extended canter, compacting down until we were trotting, so that he doesn’t always come to a stop when I really sit deep and start to hold with my core and seat.
We ended the ride with some long and low work as usual after a hard flat to let him stretch down and feel really good. Since he was so jazzed up, it took a while for him to take a deep breath and stretch, but it felt really good once he did.
After such a hard ride, we took a nice walk around the farm where he got to stretch in a nice free walk and get lots of pats.
All of our hard work paid off in our lesson the next day. We did our first courses in a month if not more, and Val was rusty, but very happy to do his job, and while he was forward, he was never hot or unreasonable. We kept the jumps small, because as it turns out, no courses for 1-2 months means my legs got tired fast. Gotta keep working out and getting in more course work!
I know many people are super against gadgets, but in this case, I think the use of draw reins was extremely appropriate. I never had my reins so tight his head was pulled in, and they really help Val to remember how to use his whole body when I pull them out every once in a while. Of course in the wrong hands, they could get him too light in the front end or riding backward, but on Saturday, they made the difference between a ride where we spent half of it going around and around trying to get a decent canter, and a really productive ride in which we accomplished a ton of work without getting upset or rattled, and had a nice horse in the lesson the next day.
Side note: My horse may be a fuzzy teddy bear right now, but holy cow is he shiny! Just gonna pat myself on the back for all of that currying and serious grooming we’ve been doing.