The three day weekend was nice, but now it’s time again to get back to it. The wind was absolutely atrocious over the weekend – my lesson that I was supposed to have Monday morning got cancelled, our barbecue was blown over and subsequently broke. Thankfully the footing in our arena didn’t appear to be too affected, but our backyard was basically a swirling dust storm with sustained gusts of 35+ mph. Thankfully, we’d gone riding before the big winds on Sunday.
As I had mentioned in my post-show posts, I was going to put Whisper in English tack to help revisit that canter. Because I’m the most comfortable in my Prestige, Saturday my mom and I hooked Whisper in the crossties and I placed my saddle on Whisper’s back sans all pads. And…uh….haha ha ha. That saddle basically took a nosedive onto Whisper’s withers. And Whisper has very typical TB withers.
The saddle was popping up in the back, and the channel was too wide for her spine. I just kept shaking my head because I am still reminded just how wide not only Amber’s shoulders are, but how wide her back is. A table, that thing. So, we grabbed my mom’s English saddle and put it on her. Usually, Whisper doesn’t necessarily need a half pad, but considering she hasn’t been ridden in an English saddle in forever, I wanted to make sure the memory foam provided extra cushion so we wouldn’t have any issues with her wanting to lift her back.
And Whisper in English is just too cute. I put my Lund bridle back together and it looks super adorable on Whisper as well. I hopped on with no intention of doing any type of more forward hunter movement, and Whisper hardly offered, so I was glad. The last thing I was intending was to confuse her – I didn’t care what pace she decided to give me – my main focus was leg yields/lateral work and her canter. So for a good ten minutes, we walked a circle in the middle of the arena. We started with hip-in exercises, just a step or so at a time. She definitely had a little more trouble to the right – she really just wanted to sidepass, so I played around with a cluck here and there and using my inside leg to keep her shoulder from moving as well. Then I played around with letting her bring her shoulders back to “center,” keeping her body lifted but curved for a step or so after and then releasing.
I focused on her right side more since that’s her tougher side and she’s much harder to bend or “scoop” that direction. So when I started asking for a hip-out, to the left she was like “OMG I got this!” and gave me some great work. To the right, asking her for a hip-out was like “uhhhhhhh…..huh?” and just hitting a blank with her. She got upset because even though she was moving INTO my leg for a right bend, I wasn’t releasing the pressure. I’d never completely take my leg off, but I’d relax it and ask again, relax and ask again. And finally she gave me just the smallest of tilts to the outside, so I released and praised her. It only took 2 more tries before she really understood it, and then I’d ask her for hip-out to hip-in, and she was really doing well. It wasn’t perfect my any means, but the flow was natural for her, and she was soon confident in it.
Her jog was nice albeit a little fast, but I only corrected her when she became flat. In no time at all, she was giving me what I call her show jog, and she felt very correct and lifted. When it came to the canter tho….I wasn’t too encouraged by it. I’d had a quick “make it a teensy bit better” session at the show, but she’d had about a week off so I wasn’t expecting the moon. I was hoping it’d be a bit better though. I really had to reiterate my inside leg to her. I know for me, crab-stepping is a term I’ve heard in conjunction with WP horses a lot, and what I want Whisper to have is a healthy, sustainable, collected canter that is right where she’s the most comfortable. So I’ve been taking the dressage “inside leg to outside rein” and playing and tweaking that to western, especially in the canter. When Whisper lets her hind end drift to the outside, I think so much falls to the wayside like steering for example. And when she lets that drift happen, her canter just feels so disjointed. So, really encouraging the inside hind to come forward – check.
The right lead was pretty “meh,” but after a few rounds working on it, I decided to scrap it and save it for another day. It would give me more time to think about what else I could revisit to get it better, and then pushing is never a good idea for Whisper. On working with the left lead, it was better, but she was just getting so behind and flat. I could tell she was a bit tired, but I’ve been planning on more fitness for Whisper before the next show, and this would be part of it. So I kissed her up into a hunt canter (which I’m sure is what it looked like and I’m sure Whisper was thinking “OMG this is SO FAST!” Unfortunately no video, but she had her ears up and remembered all the other times I’d asked her to push forward before slowing the rhythm but keeping the collection and forward thought. I’d asked her to do just that, and she’d just flatten out again so back up into that canter. After 5 or so tries, she finally gave me just a few collected strides, so we broke to a jog and quit.
Sunday was already windy when we hopped on, but first, I still revisited the lateral/leg yield work. She was definitely on top of it, so we moved into a jog and I experimented on her hip-ins and outs and she just gave me a few great ones at the jog. Awesome! Then we practiced that going straight on the rail, and she was just really getting it. I really reiterated my inside leg again – this time at the jog and especially to the right, wanting her to curl around me to get that push. Her first instinct when I go to remind her that she needs to lift, or to help her get it, is to invert herself against the pressure. She’ll push her shoulder to the inside and tip her nose out instead of lifting her shoulders off of my legs and transferring it through her back. I could also just feel her body movements so much clearer, so I could tell when she’d start to revert back and let her hip drift out to the rail. But I’d shift my leg back and she’d politely straighten herself back out.
When I asked for that right lead though – she was awesome. The work REALLY paid off. Even though I hadn’t done so to the right, having her increase her speed on the left lead really stuck with her. She was much more confident in what I was asking, and really trying to keep that right shoulder at the same height as her left and keep her hip straight. She was more forward and was more successful at maintaining her collection, so when we got a good one time around the ring we quit any subsequent work on the right lead. I went to work on the left lead a bit, and she started to let her hip drift inside, a bit like that crab-stepping, so I used my inside leg and let it slip back every time she felt too bendy to the left. And she straightened, her lope was more correct, and we quit the ride there.
I do need to get her fitness up, but I prefer to still keep training rides short. But we’ll get there. Soon, the one time around the ring will be a no brainer and we’ll progress to more.
I hopped on Amber after – she was most excited to be out. She had a little bit of head shaking in there, so I knew the wind was getting her very excited – which is to say, she was still not that fast haha. At one point she lost her foot a little, and then proceeded to get very upset that she lost her footing lol.
Just a bit of cantering later and she was done. She’s definitely not in shape anymore, and I think too by the end she got her excitement and her run out and then was a bit ouchy. But she was so happy to be out and about. Zoomies!! Yet not really lol.
Monday I didn’t ride. The wind was still pretty bad and it’d caused the temps to drop. It got into the 20s Monday night! It’s not even supposed to get into the 50s today – staying in the 40s! Now it’s more like the winter in Vegas I’m used to. The lows are remaining in the 30s, only just getting into the 40s at the end of my 15-day forecast. The highs are still up there in the low 50s, but we have a chance for rain. I knew our REALLY NICE weather wasn’t going to last. Please bring it back!