Between packing riding clothes and ‘regular; clothes for me, clothes for the horses, loading feed/hay and tack, and driving, then unloading all aforementioned items, I was a tad worn out before the ‘real’ work even began!
What I did NOT count on was how ‘joined at the hip’ Faxx and Faeryn were, and how that, um, ‘adversely’ affected their behavior, attention span and length of time required to lunge them before I deemed it safe to climb aboard! I was a bit gobsmacked by that, since at home they are ‘ho hum’ and separately, at shows, they are both very laid back. I will say, contributing to their mild hysteria was the fact that Marta’s farm fronts a busy road, and her dressage ring is maybe 75 feet from the road. My horses are used to traffic, since our entire pasture fronts the street on two sides, but we live on a dead-end road, and the traffic level at home is several notches below what they experienced today. Probably another factor was that they spent all night in their stalls, then got right on the trailer – so they already had some pent-up energy. But, this just reconfirms my stance on NEVER, EVER trying to take both of them to a show together! 😉
First up was Fling. I think the last time I had to lunge her before I rode her was at least five years ago! LOL! When I first got on her, she was REALLY up on her toes! We warmed up at rising trot and Marta immediately had me do some exercises to slow her down a bit and get her to raise her neck just a little. We did figure eights and at ‘x’ I half-halted to collect her more, then slowed her almost to a walk, then gave the reins forward just about an inch, at the same time leaning slightly back and putting leg on. This got her a bit more “up” and encouraged her to take slower, longer steps. Marta also noticed that I was definitely ‘holding’ the left rein more each direction. I worked on ‘allowing’ her to bend more to the right by giving more in the left rein when going to the right. Going to the left, I needed to take more outside rein. Because I was using too much left rein both directions, this was encouraging her to go crooked, with her haunches either slightly in or out, depending on the direction. This is the kind of stuff I can’t figure out on my own – but it can make all the difference in everything we do. We did the same exercise at the canter, and we also worked on making our corners at canter more like quarter-turns. Her canter felt SUPER, especialy to the right. To the left, I need to work more on positioning her better with the outside rein. I also tend to ‘chase’ her at the medium/extended trot, which makes her just go quicker with shorter steps. Fling is one horse that needs NO forward ‘motivation’ from me. She is extremely forward-thinking but in the very best way – she’s not nervous, she’s not jiggy – but that power and acceleration is right THERE when you want it. It’s why I call her my ‘little sportscar.’ All I really have to do is half halt going around ther corner to ‘rev’ her engine a bit – then straighten her – and just sit back a bit and let her go. I don’t need to put leg on her or encourage her. When I forget that and ‘chase’ her – that’s when she gets too quick. We didn’t work on flying changes today – her canter was still pretty ‘high’ and she worked so well, we called it a day.
I put Fling her a small paddock and got Faxx tacked up. It was a like trying to saddle a moving target. He was distraught over being (in his opinion!) entirely too far away from Fling. I took him out to lunge him and it was like flying a kite! Faxx was not this excited at his first show! I lunged him for probably ten minutes, but I finally stopped because I could tell he was not going to completely settle, no matter how long I lunged him. When I finally got on him I still felt like I was on a lit rocket. He was whinnying to Fling and she was whinnying back. At one point he started backing toward the barn and we wandered around a little before I was able to convince him the arena was where we were headed. Faxx is a huge mover – and when he’s on his tiptoes, it’s pretty intimidating! I put on my big cowgirl panties, tho and dealt with it and juswt put him on a circle out of sight of Fling and started methodically insisting he listen to me.
Surprise, surprise, I was holding the left rein too much with Faxx, too. What I had taken as his reluctance to bend right was just a symptom of me holding the outside (left) rein too much. Once he finally settled down and paid attention, he felt super. Faxx and Faeryn both have longer necks than Fling, which, while it’s pretty, also makes it trickier to ride them. With Fling, there’s only one place for her neck to be. With Faxx, he can more easily go behind the vertical, making his neck too short. We worked on riding him forward a bit, keeping my hands more together, and giving the inside rein whenever I could. When I first started riding Faxx last year, and asking him to take contact with the bit, he was very reluctant to do so. He’s come SUCH a long way. Today he was taking super contact, and I was able to do tiny half halts (forward and back) to ask him to collect a little, and then go forward. These are the first baby steps toward collection.
We worked on getting his upward transitions to canter better – I need to remember to ride him foward with my inside seatbone (ie, keep it moving forward so I encourage him to step forward) and, at the same time, give the inside rein just a tad when I ask for the depart. The combination of these two actions will encourage him to step forward and up into the canter. Sometimes he goes “up” too much into the canter, without enough corresponding ‘forward.’
After we finished, I put Faxx and Fling into a small paddock and Fling spent the whole time herding him around. Faxx was perfectly happy to let her! Then Marta and I went to a nearby Andalusian breeder, where she rode two horses and I watched her. It is here that I will ride one of them Wednesday. He is well confirmed in flying changes (to twos) and also does piaffe and passage.
So, I lived through the first day. Hopefully Faxx will be a bit easier tomorrow! But it’s supposed to SNOW tomorrow!!