Yay! I’m back to keeping a horse diary!
I’ve been working one horse each day, so as not to strain my back – I really dread the thought of being out of action again, so I am being super-careful with it.
I took Aero up to the arena and practised what we had learned in our lesson on Monday. He was a superstar – did everything pretty much perfectly, even backing up. I really toned down the signals I was giving him, so that a lift of my hand was enough to get him to trot and a slight movement of my shoulders was all it took to bring him back to a walk.
Then I rode him – just for fifteen minutes – and I didn’t feel entirely crap on him!! His leg-yielding was good and I practised going from working long-and-low to a normal frame and back again.
Flurry’s turn. The last time I mentioned him, I said I needed to get on his case. Did I?
I took him for a 20 minute walk on the road. It was 21C, and with his thick coat he had already started to sweat by the time we pushed our way through the woods into the arena. No rest for the wicked, I told him, and in we went for a thirty minute schooling session. I was insisting on bend and on him NOT leaning on the bit. The other thing I have to insist on more is not allowing him to rush when he leg-yields. I think he has learned that by rushing, he can get out of doing it ‘properly’ so I’ll have to revert to leg-yielding a couple of steps followed by halt, followed by leg-yield another couple of steps etc etc.
A red-letter day – my friend MC and I rode together for the first time since December last year!
She finally got the all-clear from her surgeon after her hip-surgery – yippee! It was Aero’s turn to be ridden, but to be ultra-sure that we’d be safe, I decided to ride Flurry instead. I didn’t want to risk any drama, especially since Quieto, her horse, has been off for as long as his Mum. Both horses were perfect gentlemen, so we were two happy bunnies. Seeing as I’m trying to build up my back and she’s trying to build up her hip, we just did an hour. Flurry was barefoot throughout and I was really pleased with him, he was marching along as happy as anything.
We rode together again on Saturday, and this time I rode Aero. MC’s daughter joined us on a young grey Arab who had been broken by Alexandrine two years ago. He hardly ever gets ridden, but he seems like an honest little chap. He was happy to be out and about, having fun. And Aero?
Well, ten minutes into the ride, I found myself thinking “What a difference a year makes.” This time a year ago, riding Aero was like sitting on an unexploded bomb. Every rustle, every bird-call, every suspicious-looking branch made him stop in his tracks, heart pounding, ribs pressed out against my legs. Now, he strides along, in front or behind, perfectly relaxed, not at all bothered by Chips the dog, who was bounding through the trees beside us, or by the strange horse.
But not only has he turned into a confident trekker, he has also (hope I’m not tempting fate here) FINALLY grown a tough, sturdy hoof. We went along some of the horrible gravelly roads that I dislike, but he strutted along as if he was on level turf. His frogs have improved in the last couple of weeks, since I got back into a routine, and the sulci are filling in as his frogs beef up. Last year, his soles yielded to thumb pressure – this year they are tough and hard. Most interestingly, I’ve noticed that the rhythm of his walk has changed. His natural walk never had a clear four-beat rhythm, it was “12” “34” “12” “34” instead of “1234” “1234.” This was how he went, mounted and unmounted! I was leading him from the paddock to the farm along the road and it suddenly struck me that I was hearing “1234” “1234.” It can only be caused by his barefoot state.
On Sunday, we rode out as a herd! Five of us – yes, five! I don’t know when I last rode in a group that size! There was me and Aero, the LSH and Flurry, MC and Quieto, her daughter and the little Arab and Alexandrine on her current breaker. It was the breaker’s second trek and he behaved like a champ. In fact, the two Irish horses were probably the worst behaved of the whole lot! Flurry was in Tank mode at the start and just wanted to march along as fast as possible. Aero was great most of the time, but when we came to a field where we sometimes canter, he got a bit excited and started jogging and scooting sideways. I forgave him!
I practised the in hand work with Aero, he’s so good at following! I run, he trots, I stop, he stops, I go backwards, he goes backwards. After we finished, I washed his tail and pulled his mane a little. It’s quite long, so I will do it by degrees.
Another lesson with Alexandrine. This time it was Flurry’s turn.
I asked could we do 50/50 in-hand work and ridden work. The in-hand work was interesting. She picked me up on a few points where I was giving mixed messages. First of all, I had to make sure that Flurry was attentive and ready to do what I asked him. When I ask him to move his quarters away, I should make sure that he ends up facing me, asking “What now?” I had been happy with him just moving his quarters obediently – no! It needs to be a little more than that! Then when I send him off on a circle, I should make sure he’s a step or two away from me before I start, and I should make HIM move, not me! I need to control the whip better, too… I definitely took some homework away from that.
Then there was the ridden part of the lesson. Annette, you’ll be delighted to hear that she’s getting on my case about my hands!! She told me EXACTLY what Katy said to you in your second lesson! After some discussion about hands and Flurry being soft and not leaning, I showed her last week’s homework, where I move Flurry’s shoulders. That went ok, but the lesson went downhill after that – for the first time, I struggled to understand what she was asking me to do. What I THINK she wanted was for me to ride a square in walk, with a quarter pirouette at each corner, but I didn’t understand that at the time. She told me to ride each corner by moving his shoulders around, but initially my legs refused to do what I asked. I’d “put right leg on” and discover that my left leg was clamped against his side – AGH! Eventually I was applying the aids moderately ok, but she kept asking me to do something else with my outside leg – use it on the girth but sometimes use it behind the girth was what I thought she was saying but it didn’t make sense… she ended up riding Flurry to show me what she meant. Aha – the penny dropped. His quarters were falling out, she was asking me to use my outside leg to control his back end when necessary. That was when I made the quarter pirouette connection…
So it was a frustrating end to the lesson but a good lesson overall, when I think back on it.
There’s more on the way, but I think this is more than enough for one blog post!