Life gets in the way….

I pretty much ride every day – no matter what. I just don’t often (lately) have time to post on a horse AND on my blog!

The video I posted of Fling at the clinic made me feel a lot better about my progress with her. My position is much better – I am not leaning back nearly as much. I am keeping my reins shorter (too-long reins are what, Debbie suggested, started my bad habit of leaning back), Fling is consistently on the bit and very collected. It also showcased some things we need to work on. If you’ll notice at the walk, she nods her head. If you look closely you’ll see she is nodding her head at the same time her right hind comes forward. She is still weak in the right hind – and one of the problems is that, in doing a lot of exercises to try and strengthen it – sometimes it gets a little sore. And sometimes the left hind gets a little sore compensating for the sore right hind. We do not think there is any particular problem – it’s just a lifelong weakness that we have to always be aware of and work on. Everyone has imbalances from right to left, horses and humans alike. Nonetheless, I think it is time to ‘upgrade’ her ‘maintenance’ dose of generic glucosamine to regular polyglycon injections and perhaps get some baseline x-rays of her hocks and stifles. She will be 11 in August and she’s schooling canter pirouettes, and, unfortunately, for the last 6 months she’s been working on pretty hard ground. She also doesn’t get much time off. But she will this week, since Faxx is going to the Arabian/Half Arabian Sporthorse Regional Championships in Waco.

In our last clinic, I told Debbie Bowman that I felt like I was constantly nagging Fling with half halts. Although it’s not apparent in the video. I am now making a conscious effort to make each half halt count – ie, she needs to repond to a half halt, not ignore me. And she’s probably ignoring me because I’ve been doing too many – becoming like ‘white noise’ to her. I overheard Marie say something to a student riding after me a few weeks ago – she said the student needed to have a more ‘playful’ connection with the reins. That struck a chord with me. I realized that I am so SERIOUS about everything that I keep my reins the same length all the time, with the same pressure on both reins for most of the time. And I do give the reins on a regular basis – but there is not enough of a ‘conversation’ going on between Fling and me.

So I’ve been trying to work on letting her have more ‘freedom’ – not nagging her with half halts, and trying to make ALL my aids much more sublte – and doing much more ‘giving the reins’ – even if it’s just one rein at a time. It’s made a difference I think.

In the meantime, my arena is more than haflway done. All the bad heavy clay base has been scraped off and is piled next to the arena. I brought in 27 loads of ‘soil engineer-approved’ new base and it was spread and leveled. I rented a 500 gallon water truck and spend July 4th weekend filling the tank and using the firehose to water the arena. It tooko almost 2 hours to fill the tank and about 15 minutes to disperse it onto the arena! It was very ‘mucky’ and the dirt stuck to my shoes when it was soaking wet, which kind of concerned me. But within a matter of hours, you could walk on it without making big footprints. By the next day I could ride on the base.

It still needs some more work before I put the sand back on it. It has some small low spots once it all settled, and I think I would like it crowned just a bit more. And then the real work starts. I realized that in scraping my $3,000 coarse sand off the arena, a LOT of the nasty clay base got mixed in with it. Since I cannot spend $3K on more sand, I will be HAND SIFTING the sand before we put it back on the arena. That may take me until the end of the year!  Even with that, I am cautiously optimistic that “Arena 2.0″ will do the trick. I have been riding on the base every day. Only about the top 1” of it has gotten ‘scuffed up’ due to the riding. And it’s much more forgiving on the horses’ legs than riding in the field.

As I mentioned, Faxx is going to the annual Arab/HA SH Championships this week. He is going through a bit of a ‘whiny teenager’ phase. He really thinks I am working him WAY too hard, and would really like to just go back to training level, where all he had to do was trot around pretty. 😉  He has had several small meltdowns over learning shoulder-in. He is not being a bad boy – it is just hard for him. For one, he is a big horse, with big movement, and, as Marie pointed out – REALLY long legs. It is not easy for him to figure out what to do with them. He also is not nearly as mentally mature as Fling or Faeryn. And (lowers voice to a whisper) he is not nearly as smart as his sisters.Shhh. We do not want to bruise his little ego.

He is going to be a challenge for me to train, because I’ve been dealing with super smart, overachieving horses for a long time. As Marie noted, I am going to have to break things down into very small elements for him. He gets frustrated and a bit worried when he does not understand something. It could easily be mistaken for being uncooperative – but I really don’t think that is the case. I did at first – but after several lessons, and watching him, Marie pointed out to me how worried he gets when we’re doing new stuff. And looking and thinking back, I believe that is true. Several times, I have had sessions where I thought he was being a completely butthead – and told him so! And then the very next day, he was Mr. Perfect. I think it takes him a while to process things. The fact that he improves overnight shows he really IS trying… it just takes him longer to think about it.

He is showing first level at the Championships. We are DONE with training level. Even tho he is only 6, and he’s probably not _quite_ ready for first level – we’ve only ridden the new First 3 test in competition three times, and two of those were at schooling shows. No matter – onward and upward. He will also show in hand and in Sport Horse Under Saddle, which is sort of like a materiale class. Last year he won both of his SH US classes – open and amateur. He likes to do those….because all he has to do is trot and canter around and look pretty. 😉

Speaking of trotting around and looking pretty – here’s a video of his warmup at our last clinic.

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