Most of last week was catching up on the show and a quick six-year shout out, so I’ll go over a bit of our rides and the weekend. Since Sunday’s show day was western, I’ve been sticking with western and doing some more training. Working on keep our jogging uphill, and beginning to ask a lot more from her canter.
In truth, it’s high time I do so. Part of it is I want to make sure her hip stays okay, but I was also a bit afraid to do some more training on her for that. She gets very keyed up when we train, and I want her to be relaxed, but I also think it’s that I wasn’t the most sympathetic rider to her when we trained before, so I’ve been avoiding it since I’m kind of nervous, too. But, when we started dressage and stepping into eventing, she was established in her jog and had all the essential pieces to just do it a different way. Her lope had been heading in the right direction a year and a half ago when we’d been in a different barn. But, after moving, it was never completely established and put on the back-burner. But now I think we really need to make it our #1 priority again.
So we had a pretty tough training day on Thursday (Monday and Tuesday she got off – which apparently she didn’t want a day off. Go figure. Wednesday was an assessing day after the show). I finally told myself the only way to make it better is to do it, and I know how to do it and get it done. It’s just that it’s Amber, we’re both highly attuned to the other, and while it was a tough day for her to learn, it really heartened me that unlike before when I’d trained on her, this time she willingly performed the maneuvers later without latent high-strung-ness. If that makes sense. It means I haven’t messed up completely, you know? lol
Most of the toughness was her right lead, which makes sense. It’s an odd concept because in reining you want the horse willingly guided, off of the outside neck rein pressure. In dressage, you want them lifting to that outside rein. Not quite sure how I’m going to make that less confusing for Amber yet, but I think the reining is the best start – establishing a lot of the basics I like while still leaving room for dressage in the future.
The majority of the toughness was just her not wanting to use her butt through her back. She has plenty of butt power (have you seen that thing?!) but we also just never progressed quite far enough to establish her doing that at the canter. She likes to throw her neck up and use that instead of the big, muscled powerhouse she has, so Thursday, it was time for me to start insisting she do it that way. That means for a bit, the actual dressage work will halt for a little while. But I really think that being established this way, as she was at the trot, will really help set her up for success in dressage. (Only difference in the trot was let’s go forward and contact is okay lol)
It’s going to be a huge balancing act of “is she sore, not understanding, doesn’t want to do it, or her hip is bothering her again” to go through every day, but we’ll see how it comes out. Her left lead was better Thursday, just with the added expectation. I’m also really trying to feel that as I start asking and expecting her to really work through her butt and back, I’m not sacrificing an uphill (or level as is our case most times) carriage for a downhill one. Granted, I only got a more uphill carriage once I started insisting more forward for dressage and could then transfer that back to western, but it’ll be interesting to figure it out.
Also on Thursday, my mom hopped on for a quick ride as well since I know she’s missing riding her pony. I thought perhaps Amber might be a little too keyed up after our training, but she was really good for my mom, and even helped us figure out some reasons as to why certain things may or may not have been working with my mom and Whisper before.
Friday I grabbed some grain and bedding, rushed home and hopped on the pony bareback. I think now she’s finally trusting me more at dusk. There were bird wing flutters, and before I could even respond to her quick “oh no!” she settled right back into her jog. I let her walk and loved on her. Thank you mare for not inadvertently dumping me again lol. We mostly walked, jogged and spun. I wanted to lope, but that could wait, and she did one of the best right spins she’s ever done in her life. Hopefully, that means that leg is getting stronger! Her spins that way are getting smoother, so I’m hopeful!
I’ve also been working on her walk. Since watching the two dressage videos and thinking on how she felt, she felt very tense, and I think that (potentially still combined with her hip) is why her gait got stabby. So every time I feel that same walk, I’ve been trying to lift her, push her forward, and really feel that right hind reaching forward the same as her left. Also establishing a soft, easy (but forward) 4-beat rhythm instead of the hurried one. So far, she’s feeling better, so I’m crossing my fingers all the pieces are coming together.
Saturday morning I went to Sandy Valley to be an obstacle judge. I’d been contacted Thursday, and since I’d never been over that way, curiosity and helpfulness for the people who’ve so helped NSHA saw me driving over there. It was actually a pretty cool competition. One group stayed around the ranch first to do 4 obstacles while a second group started their 2 1/2 miles of 5 total trail riding miles. Then, as the first group finished their 4 obstacles and headed out for their trail miles, the second group was coming in to do their first set. It made things go pretty smoothly.
I was in charge of two obstacles – the Never-ending Sidepass and the Maze and Pivots.
They were some hard ones, I’ll tell you that. This first one, level one was #1, sidepassing in between 2 poles. Level 2 was same as #1, but add a pivot on forehand and sidepass the zigzag poles like in #2. Level 3 was same as in level 2, you just go alllllll the way back to the start. Yeesh.
The Maze and Pivots had one side of ground poles, and one side of poles raised about a foot. Level 1 was backing into the chute and walking out (#1). Level 2 was backing all the way through the M, then sidepassing out (#2). Level 3 involved everything in level 2 only you sidepassed over the raised poles. Like holy crap. That’s insane lol. No one tried that one.
Still, I judged them based on the outlined criteria, and tried to comment on everyone’s go round, what I liked, what I thought they could do better, etc. Just keeping it super simple though. I enjoyed it, and the area was open, and super sandy with very little rocks. Ah…. can we maybe have an xc course here?! I so wanted to take Amber through this itsy bitsy water. Looked like fun!
They had a pit full of crunchy water bottles, too. I could foresee that being a huge problem for some horses lol.
When I got back in the afternoon, I immediately set out to ride Amber, and she was great. We had to work a little more on her left lead this time, again with depositing her shoulders back over her center of gravity. I think as that leg gets stronger, she’s not getting as upset when I do try to “put her back” to center. She still has trouble bending that way, but her steering is better, so she’s like this weird conundrum of “needs to rein off of the left neck rein on the right lead, but needs to dressage to the right neck rein on the left lead” lol. I hope my brain won’t explode from all these differences lol. But her spins are really coming along better.
Her right lead was beautiful. After about 3/4 of a circle I let her stop, but I also have a tendency to do that and then never give her the little extra pushes she needs day by day. So we loped off again, did a revolution or two around the whole arena, a circle or two on opposite ends, and called it quits. And she was so focused on getting that right lead correct I was so proud of her.
Saturday I also pressed her for her lead departures. All at a jog, which she can do well, but once she just totally flipped me the finger. I think I was more amused than upset, even though I had to pretend I was upset with her because this thing rarely throws me the finger. And even then she just pinned her ears and flipped her nose in the air and like gave a grunt lol. So way more amusing. But then we’d worked on the left transition enough that she thought I wanted a left even to the right. We worked through that with a few laughs and she got it great. Ah, silly girl.
We took our long overdue hack Sunday, and I think due to Whisper being in heat and her not being out for there for 2-3 weeks caused her to be pretty lit, but we meandered and practiced our neck reining around bushes, down little rocky banks into sandy areas and she eventually settled. She really took offense to this giant slab of rock-looking concrete. Sniffed it, saw it ended and like leaped straight in the air. Tantrum over lol. I doubt her feet really ever left the ground, but she sure humped up good. After that she was just fine. We passed the “ditch” again, and as I presented it to her, gave a little cluck and a tap and she just hopped over it very softly and cantered very softly after it. I brought her to a walk where she then proceeded to practically fall on her face. Oh, little mare. But with no need to do it again, we meandered back to the property to call it a good ride after 45 minutes. The walking really seemed to help as well.
So, just a simple weekend with lovely training, but it was needed and she got Monday off. Oh, the life, right?
As for the title…..We’ve been battling Mr. and Mrs. Rat for a little while now. They chewed through my mom’s thick plastic bin to get to the grain, and haven’t looked back. We now have metal cans, but those things were still prowling around. A few days before, a neighbor had caught Mr. Rat in a trap. Sunday, I found Mrs. Rat curled up in between the cantel and the skirt of my western saddle. In my saddle cover. With poop all over it. And scratches from her nails on my leather. Because she wanted to live there. Ick.
So, we set the traps. We were a little worried that our little chipmunks and ground squirrel/prairie dogs may get caught, but nope! Mrs. Rat is now officially….er…..I really don’t want to say she’s in heaven. She’s wherever rats go lol. But she is no more. Hopefully, we don’t have anymore rats. Now we just seem to have a lot of spiders which is only natural but still. Ick. I love the outdoors, but seriously spiders, go away.