Our last two rides have been western fun and games. Oddly enough, though, after I put 2 boots on her and then her western saddle, she seemed to look back at me like “oh so we’re NOT doing fun things today? Greeeeaaaaatttt.”
But, she was good. I stretched her hindquarters as best as I could before heading out each ride, and it really seemed to help. All the evening muck rake scratches seem to help as well so that’s a plus.
I was tripping over myself most of the time I was walking; I’m definitely not used to walking in my western spurs anymore. I was really nervous they might be too much for her considering how sensitive she’s been dressaging and doing small jumps, but she was absolutely super chill with them. Maybe it’s because I had a fender in-between my leg and her this time so she couldn’t feel my calf as much? I’m not sure, but I do find it amusing that she has 3 different settings for the 3 different disciplines lol.
Wednesday I hopped on with the intent to play around, do a modified reining pattern and a bit of ranch riding just to see where we were. She was a huge trier through the whole thing, and I think after a bit it sparked her memory like I know what this is! It was also a great opportunity for me to lay a little better training on her slow jog. Loose rein and western suddenly means uncollected jogging to her, so it was a good opportunity to instill in her that while western is slower, LIFT is still required. We sort of got that by the end of the ride.
Dressage is definitely helping her overall balance, and I was really pleased that while she had loose reins, she was really steady in her pace. Usually she also gets upset if I apply that inside leg to get her to lift that left shoulder (no doubt due to when it was uncomfortable to do so), but she didn’t get too upset and felt very easy. I did a few run downs at an easy lope, asked for a stop and then a very easy rollback that was more of a spin, and then worked on loping off.
It was good to get my trainer pants on for reining because things that I was relaxing on for English I find I expect more of her in western. Mostly because that stuff she’s really already done; it’s just a slightly different format for English. So I filed that away for Thursday.
Thursday carried a few different things – a few impromptu things that I hadn’t filed away on Wednesday but still needed work. She’s really quite solid on neck reining to the left – not so much to the right. It’s really a lesson I should have had with her a while ago, but we’re getting to it now so that’s okay. I kept mostly to circles, and focused on steering but with the addendum that lift was still needed. She did super to the left and needed a lot more work on the right. But again, I’m not too surprised.
She really tried though, and I honestly laughed out loud when I took her across the middle to lead change. She’s just so funny. English and jumping and she’s been pulling those lead changes out pretty consistently. Me sitting down and steering to the right and she just kept on loping, all calm and willing to counter-canter despite how much she dislikes counter cantering. Ah, little mare.
We worked on our spins a bit, making sure she wasn’t staying prone to leaking a shoulder to the outside, and I was really pleased with her. I could feel her telltale “hot” that she gets when you correct her and work at it a few times, but I was very happy that unlike she has before she kept her calm and just kept listening to my legs and cues.
I worked on a bit of stopping as well. We’ve let ourselves go a bit, so it was good to remind her that stopping requires more butt use than neck and shoulders use. Since she doesn’t have sliders on and she doesn’t like sliding, I wanted to just get her to stop softly. And she did. She just….still slid. Only like a foot and a half but still. And again, unlike before when she’d get worried, she had a lot of confidence with it even on her bad side. I’ll take that any day.
We loped for a while, working on keeping the pace and lift and not worrying about where her neck and head were. It was actually quite nice to get back to reining (working on reining things unlike what we did the last time) and I really think she quite liked it too. It’s what we did for a time, and she remembers that. We’re doing it in a slightly different way now, but it’s relatively the same.
Last time I rode western I commented on how cross-training was super beneficial to see that dressage was helping her so much and how good it was for Amber to do the switch. I’m going to comment on it again, but this time, it was cross-training for me. I’ll do bullets so I’m not waxing poetic on you guys.
Things I learned:
All in all – a really really good 2 rides so far. Before I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with western, but I’m going to hold off on my decision with that. It may be that these next few months preparing for the shows will be perfect training not only for her, but for me to really switch around my thinking and working a lot more on her fitness. I think I’ve been doing her a disservice with not working hard enough on flat days and then we canter a lot on days I’ve jumped her. As ever, though, she’s a super girl, and is taking the back-to-western well. Can’t wait for the weekend! Even though no jumps. Which is sad, but alas. Must be done lol.