Comme ci Comme ça – a brief horsey update

Sorry for the lack of posts, I’ve been trying to get back into a routine after my visitors and failing dismally.  This is one I started a coupe of weeks ago.  I finished it up but I’ll have more to add over the next few days.  I have a very exciting weekend coming up!

October 14

A lot of my horse posts recently have been positively glowing.  I’ve been having a lot of fun with both horses, between ridden work and in-hand (or liberty!) work.  For some reason, though, it’s all been feeling a bit MEH! for the last week or so.

I had two hacks with Flurry.  The first one involved trailering him down to MC’s house and going for a ride around the south side of Reillanne.  That went well, in fact it turned out to by my one positive for the week!  We were trying to take a shortcut across a field back to her house and we came to a drain.  Quieto did not want to cross it at all.

“I’ll have a try,” I said.  I pointed Flurry at it, grabbed a bit of mane and asked him to go.  Like the good Irish hunting cob her is, he popped over it, no problem!  Quieto still didn’t believe it was possible to cross it, so Flurry and I jumped back to his side and tried to give him a lead again – to no avail.  So we jumped a drain three times – woohoo!  Poor Quieto still didn’t think it was possible.  We eventually got him over by me holding his lead rope on the landing side of the drain, while MC encouraged him from behind on the take-off side.

The next day, I hacked Flurry again, with MC and Alexandrine.  I could feel the mischief in him.  He was really fresh and argumentative, with lots of little head-shakes, but he mostly behaved.  Apart from one cheeky buck when we trotted to catch up with the others.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was full of grain, but they know I want my horses to have nothing but hay…

There was originally a dressage competition scheduled for October 12th.  I had been doing a little bit of preparation for that with Flurry.  He is working pretty well at Club Two level, which involves leg-yielding, a teeny bit of counter-canter, lengthened trot, walk/canter transition and smaller circles – 12 metre circles in trot and 15 metre circles in canter.  His leg-yielding was inclined to be a little bit ‘stuck’ but Alexandrine suggested I try riding a couple of strides of leg-yield, then straighten him, lengthen the trot, collect him up again and leg-yield another few strides.  This has worked really well and his leg-yield has improved a lot.

So much so, that we feel we’ve pretty much got Club Two nailed and we’re now starting to look at the work we need to do for the next level of competition, Club One.  And I think that’s my problem.  It’s got a lot of much more advanced stuff in it which, frankly, we’re not ready for yet.  It’s got haunches-in on a 5 metre half circle in walk (no idea how to do that!), some funky leg-yielding in and out from the centre line in trot, a canter serpentine with counter-canter on the middle loop, a canter-walk transition (that ain’t happenin’ any time soon) – in fact it’s got an awful lot of canter work full stop.

Yesterday, we worked on counter-canter.  I used an exercise where you canter down the long side, ride a 12 – 15 metre loop, return to the track and continue in counter-canter through the short end of the arena (which he found very difficult), then ride across the diagonal so you end up back on the ‘correct’ lead again.  The first attempt, he broke to trot as soon as we hit the track after riding the loop.  Next time, he broke to trot as we passed C.  Next time, we managed to keep it going until we started to come out of the corner after C.  It seemed easier to keep it going when we did left canter on the right rein.  I’m not sure that makes sense – left canter is his weaker side?  Anyway, although it wasn’t brilliant, I wasn’t too disheartened.  I feel it’s a work in progress and will probably come together in a week or two.

Then I had a lesson with him today.  After polishing our leg-yielding a bit, we started to work on our canter stuff, building towards 12 metre canter circles and a direct transition to walk.  It was just plain awful, particularly to the left.  I was getting frustrated and Flurry was getting cross – so much so that he threw a couple of bucks.  I’m frustrated by my inability to ride a decent canter and by Flurry’s tendency to fall in through his left shoulder (he does this at all gaits but at least I can correct him in walk and trot).  I don’t know whether the problems (his and mine) are arising from my back issues or is there something else going on.  I think whenever there is another osteopath due to visit, I’ll get Flurry checked out.  Meanwhile, I might try using a different pad under the saddle.

As for Aero… because my back has been visiting the osteopath, I’ve been cautious about riding Mr Bouncy-Toes, so we’ve been doing a fair bit of ground work.  And I’ve discovered a couple of massive, glaring holes in our basic training.  He still doesn’t really believe that he’s allowed to turn into me when he’s stopped ‘on the track’ and he still doesn’t fully understand that when I push towards his hind-quarters he’s meant to move his back end away from me, thereby moving his front end towards me.  Both issues are clearly linked and both stem from years and years of being lunged in the traditional English manner.

Because I trained as  BHS (British Horse Society) instructor, I tended to do everything in a very BHS way at home.  Horses were tacked up and lunged ‘correctly.’  I could make a beautiful, perfect isosceles triangle between me (as the point), the lunge rope and the whip (as the long sides) and the horse (as the short side).  The whip flicked towards the hock to create impulsion and towards the shoulder to keep the horse out on the track.  That’s what Aero knew for the best part of ten years.  Now the rules have changed.  There is frequently no lunge rope.  The whip points to the shoulder to create impulsion and points to the hindquarters to ask the horse to move his quarters.  No wonder he’s confused.

We can fudge this issue when I’m working him on a rope – I just pull his head towards me as needed.  Now that we’re attempting more and more liberty work, however, it’s clear that we need to solve it.  Especially when we tried liberty work in the big arena.  After ten minutes of really good, close work, he just shook his head and took off like a demon, becoming more and more confused at my attempts to call him in.  Now THAT was a frustrating session.

This weekend? Well, this weekend I’m taking Aero off to a place called Les Mées, to the Centre Equestre La Fenière for a stage (clinic) with this guy :

Circus tricks? Who knows!

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