Can you believe it? It actually rained in the desert. And it was a really lovely weekend.
Because of my long work days Thursday and Friday I couldn’t ride, I made sure to ride Saturday and Sunday. Amber was looking a bit upset again Saturday and had some good glares in store for me (thank god not as many as Wednesday) but that went away once her SleekEZ was engaged and scratches were had. Once I started tacking her up, she was ready to go. It had been drizzling intermittently for the morning, and I’d determined to just go out there and grab towels if needed (because yes I love my saddle and don’t want it to get wet which….if I’m eventing I’ll go through water. I know; I make no sense lol). Thankfully, it didn’t drizzle almost at all while we rode.
Amber was definitely happy to be out again. Her walk was a little fast but after a little bit of pushing she had her nice swinging walk. It’s a balance between having her understand that when I put my leg on she lifts her back but maintains the general speed or pace of the walk – she’s just now pushing with a more rhythmic swing instead of hollow and short, speedy steps. Because I’ve trained her western, putting my leg on to have her lift and be soft in her mouth usually also meant rocking back on her haunches to slow the pace. She’s really trying to understand though that I want her still on her haunches but to push more. It’s almost nice just getting to walk/trot. Things that may have been overlooked before because she generally “knew” are now front and center because that’s all we can do.
Either way I spent a lot of time walking, and walking to the left. I really tried to keep my inside rein loose and really just focus on the outside rein and having her push into it. It was super hard for me – I had to keep my eyes on my left hand while trying to feel and pay attention to everything Amber was doing because my left hand just has a mind of its own. It liked to tighten and move and fix things and it was definitely a battle to just not move it. But Amber was definitely venturing into the “mother I’m really confused and I don’t understand why this inverted bend isn’t what you want” so I realized I had to come up with something different. I settled on a western training tactic I’d been taught that I’d used with her – the problem would be for me not to get defensive in my position because it unfortunately encouraged the curling up AND no moving hand aspect I’ve been fighting with.
So I’d put my leg on, and when Amber wouldn’t move her shoulders to meet the outside rein, I’d rock my spur on her side and then bump up softly with the inside rein. She’d push her shoulder out and I’d wait for a moment of contact and release and praise. Then rinse repeat. After only 5 or so times, I’d put my calf on, and she’d move her shoulder out and her nose inside without me needing my inside rein and moved into outside contact herself. I’d ask her to hold that for a stride or two, then release and praise. It added a whole other sense of difficulty to also keep her forward, too. She wants to sit back and slow, which is great because that’s what I taught her, but she’s slowly and surely beginning to understand the push better. Then the lightbulb went off for her, and we were able to get a good 4-5 strides of actual push before I’d release and praise.
We were both feeling pretty good by this point, so I decided to trot. Still lame pushing off, but I asked for contact and she was really really trying to repeat her lightbulb moment at the trot but I could tell it was hard. She kept on trying, though, and was evenly trotting. I’d give her a scratch with my left hand while trying to maintain my outside, and she was really being super. Then it felt like she completely just lost her footing or her leg for that matter, and she pulled up pretty quickly and just kept her RH cocked. I felt pretty bad, and she didn’t respond her usual way when I tried to scratch her. But she licked her lips (which I now realize is where the “grind” sound I heard came from – so she’s not actually grinding her teeth which is a huge relief) as we stood there.
I called it quits for the trot but kept on walking. She got better at pushing into the outside rein and her ears went up happily, so I got off for the day. I rubbed her down with her sore-no-more and put a bit of bute in her grain just in case. Shortly after the rain started in earnest, but it still wasn’t a downpour which is good. It slowly soaked the ground so there was no flooding. (The adorable little ground squirrels know when it’s grain time. They always come by and grab the pieces Amber drops! The one with striping is the one that always comes; we’ve named him/her Scamper)
Sunday I was a bit apprehensive to do more, but figured she’s been doing better so I just needed to monitor how she was feeling and keep going. Since my parents got back the night before, my mom hopped on Whisper and had a nice walk around as I rode Amber. It was even warm enough to wear short sleeves! She was really on top of things on Sunday, and really trying hard to do what I was asking. She had a bit more trouble with the RH Sunday, but I think it was because we were in the bad footing sections of the arena. Once I moved her towards the middle it was easier for her. We did some trotting to the left, and she felt really really good. She was pushing very well – though not she does when going to the right but she was really starting to understand. I changed direction and she lost that RH again, but not as badly so I kept trotting and within a couple steps she was okay again.
To the right she was quick and expecting to canter, so I had to remind her and just try to relax to tell her that we were only trotting. She finally relaxed and we got some great, minimal work to the right. I had a lightbulb moment – she was starting to lift that outside shoulder up but then letting her inside shoulder drop. And she’d lost the really cool-feeling push. It was now a moderate push. Ah ha! Confusion figured out. She thought that she only had to push into my left rein. Now she thinks it’s just pushing into the right rein. She’s nothing if not an overachiever and sometimes tries too hard. But it’s one of the things I love about her. Now we have something else to work on at a mostly-walk-with-a-teensy-bit-of-trot ride. Me especially because my right side is my weak side and it tried to fix that lean like “fuck how do you do this, left side?!”
It’s great to go back to basics, and I think if she can understand (and that I can actually present it to her in a way to understand as well) that each direction we have an outside push, that will make coming back into real work (hopefully) after her stifle and knee are checked (please god let that be soon) that much easier. So while we’re stuck at a walk for a bit again, and a little bit of trot to keep her metabolism up and her muscles loose, we have a PLAN, and something that is actually challenging for little Miss Thang and her ever-active mind. It gives me more ride time to keep my riding position up to par as well and strengthen that right side so it doesn’t fall apart again. I think I still sit a bit forward but hopefully I can remedy that with all this walking lol.
Because of the rain, it got the arena nice and wet – perfect riding conditions and perfect dragging conditions. Because it was also such a nice day, we hooked up my truck to our new drag, and proceeded to test out all it’s parts. It really lifted up the sand nicely and it felt very nice and fluffy when I was done. Just need to keep it dragged more often!
I’m not sure when I’ll have another lesson. This week is going to be pretty busy but I’m definitely going to keep my goal going of at least a lesson a month! I hope everyone else had a good weekend!