Monday, June 11, 2012
It's funny how things change. A month ago, I constantly had to talk myself into riding Starbuck and spent a good five minutes after mounting up just walking around doing breathing exercises to get my butterflies to subside. Now it's almost the opposite - my instructor even gave me a little hint the other day that I shouldn't overdo it too much. Except for yesterday when I had a bad bellyache (too many cherries I think) and decided to stay home for once, last week I rode on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on Wednesday did a fairly long lungeing session with two lines. So I don't feel too guilty about giving the filly the day off yesterday.
It's not just renewed willpower, either - I just have found almost every day after lungeing her or working her in the roundpen that I really want to ride. And then I mount up and find that she's working better and better, paying more and more attention and spooking less and less each day, and it's such a good feeling to know that we're inching closer to our goal of being able to go on trail rides and that all our hard work (we're coming up on a year in July) is paying off in such a gratifying way. And not just that she's doing the things I cue her to do and doing them well, she's really starting to relax when I ride her and even enjoy herself with some of the things we do, like trotting over cavalletti.
Anyhow I wanted to take down some of the highlights of the past week before I forget them since Thursday's lesson was marvellous but Saturday's ride was even better!
On Thursday I joined a lesson which really went quite well - Starbuck was paying a fair amount of attention to me instead of the other horses and the scary people enjoying their drinks on the bar's patio. When it came time for the other girls to canter one at a time around Marina in a circle so she could critique their seat, she asked me if I wanted to just trot really fast to see how the filly would do with more pressure than usual. So I did it and apart from one kind of half-hearted buck when I kissed at her (which is our "get ready to canter" cue) she just buckled down and trotted as fast as we asked her to. Later when I asked Marina about it, she said that after seeing her work well under pressure she thinks that we could try for a canter any day now :D For the rest of the lesson I branched off with three of the less-experienced riders and led them around the arena at an easy-going trot, threading through the jump standards and over cavalletti and making circles and serpentines of different sizes, while trying to keep all of us out of the way of the rest of the folks riding. It was a great concentration exercise both for me and for Starbuck and she showed herself to be completely up to the task, even in the "scary" spots!
Friday we did some serious longeing (using a Body Wrap since her trot's a little strung-out) but once again I really felt like riding so afterwards I just pretty much cooled her down in the saddle at a walk, doing a couple of circles in trot only when her attention strayed from me. I think it's good resistance work for her to just walk around the ring for 30 minutes or so carrying me, and it also gets her used to maintaining that forward movement without me having to nag her constantly.
Saturday was our best day yet, even if it started out with what seemed like a disappointment. I had planned to ride around the stableyard with Belén and Cancunen after doing some work in the arena, however Belén had the opportunity to go for a trail ride with some other folks who were just heading out so I told her not to worry about me and go with them. For a little while Starbuck and I were all alone in the arena which tends to freak her out, but we kept on working and after a few minutes, another rider joined us. With the other horse around she was much braver and instantly relaxed, and I took advantage of the lack of people to walk by the scary side of the arena. The first few times we side-passed rather than walked by it - she wanted to make sure no nasty monsters were going to jump out and eat us! But I conciously relaxed my body, then took a deep breath and relaxed some more, and kept her walking back and forth until she finally dropped her head and let out a big sigh. To reward her I let her keep walking until we were a little further away, then stopped her and gave her withers a good scratching while she rested.
This next one is something that I think only fellow riders will appreciate - When we started off again after a minute I noticed her moving a little strangely and looked back to see if anything was the matter. And lo and behold, she was pooping! And walking! At the same time! Without me even having to insist! I was really surprised, it was only this week that Marina told me to stop letting her stop to poop while riding and I had only spurred her on once or twice when she stopped, but I guess she's a quick learner. So I gave her lots more scratching and told her how smart and graceful she was and let her walk just a little bit further before asking for our next trot. There's apparently a charming saying in Spanish, "Caballo cagado, caballo domado" (literally "Shitted horse, trained horse" which loosely translated means that a horse who poops is trained). I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't a one-time freebie and that I'll still have to work on this some more, but I was still really proud and happy about it.
I also decided to ask her to trot over some canvas which was folded up near one of the jumps, it's blue so I guess maybe someone used it to simulate a water obstacle but at any rate she slowed down at first and I let her have all the rein she wanted to look closely at it, but then she kept going and trotted right over it in both directions. At the very end I took her over to the scary side and walked her in about a 15 meter circle - just tight enough for it to be difficult to do right - on both reins until she got soft in her poll and dropped her head, then I hopped off, let out her girth and gave her a good long rubbing. Once again she had that jelly body - just completely relaxed - so all in all a fabulous day, even if we didn't get outside the arena!