Today's post is broken up by day. I haven't written about my rides lately and I just kept tacking on to this post!
So Mikey had last Friday off because his butt felt a bit tired. He's been doing much better on connection and there's more footing to slog though than he's used to (our baseball field is clay/dirt footing... so it can be hard and there's no sinking in it), so I'm guessing his butt was feeling over used and tired.
I sat on him while I taught my barn owner's lesson on Saturday. I don't normally do that if I'm teaching, but we were going to go for a road walk after her lesson and this way Mikey was already tacked up. I didn't want to work him Saturday, but I did want to take him for a hack so he could see something besides the indoor arena. It was the first road hack my barn owner went on with her horse, who she said can be spooky, so Mikey took the lead. Her horse was quite unhappy with that arrangement! He did all of the behaviors Mikey did before I forced him to learn to be the leader- head tossing, chomping, pulling the reins out of her hand. I made her lead for the second half of our 25 min walk and don't you know it? All the naughtiness disappeared. He was very content to lead at a speed Mikey was happy with (otherwise I'd have the chomping horse), and just looked around and took in the sights.
I worked Mikey Sunday after I finished the barn work. Part of my deal with board is I brought my own feed and I do the barn work Saturday and Sunday mornings. I can't afford to board where Mikey's at, but I can if I can work some of it off. Anyway, I wanted to brush Mikey up on his work in his Micklem since we hadn't used it yet at the new place and work his shoulder-in to haunches-in and shoulder-in to haunches-out. My barn owner is having a difficult time with shoulder-in on her horse, partly because she's never truly learned it, and partly because her horse was taught to do it by neck reining him so he wouldn't give her the right response when she got the aids right. Mikey is very good about giving you shoulder-in and all those things as long as you're halfway right (when you are more than halfway, he'll do it round). He's taught a couple other riders how to ask for it (I've been told, "He's like Gumby!"). Plus she wants to learn how to get her horse to connect faster, and he's not rewarding her efforts with that either because a previous owner just stuck him in a double instead of fixing the problem... so he's been cheating the connection for so long that he's not easy to connect. I sat on him, and he gave me quite an ab workout. I want her to try it on Mikey, who will let her know when she's done the right thing by immediately softening. She just has to stick out his jackhammer trot!
Anyway, I worked on the lateral movements, plus halting and backing and moving off promptly into trot. That work came together and then I moved on to canter, paying extra attention to making the changes between extended canter and collected canter with my seat. I then added circles, and decided to add back the simple changes from second level on a round figure 8 and 3 loop serpentine. I immediately felt where I lose him in the flying changes, as soon as I'd ask for the downward and straight, he'd immediately bulge his barrel the new direction. We spent a little time remembering what my outside leg does and getting straight on a circle. Yes, that doesn't make sense. But I think of it as he's bent on his circle, but is available to me and will straighten in a heartbeat.
We didn't get it perfect, but I went ahead and asked for the flying changes on that figure 8 and he gave me them each way a couple times. Not clean, but he's swap the front promptly, and take a few strides to fix the back.
I took him for a 20 min road walk again after we were done, and I wish I had had my phone on me, it was beautiful out and Mikey was shiny in the sun, and the big field I pass when I drive in was so green and lush still. It was quite a pretty picture.
Yesterday was such a beautiful day- I used an early out from work (leave 2 hours early), and got to the barn before the horses were in for dinner. Got Mikey out, tacked up and used his Micklem, grabbed two whips, and off I went. We were having a very poor ride; I couldn't get the connection I wanted. Not sure if I was trying too hard, expecting too much, or if he was just being funny because I disturbed his normal routine- he was much lookier than yesterday.
I started with his shoulder-in to haunches in work. Which was complete crap work. He was so stiff, I spent extra time on shoulder-in, and then when I asked for haunches-in to shoulder-in he blew right through me and off the track. He doesn't do that. It was obviously not his night.
One thing my trainer is always after me about is not letting his shoulders fall left when I transition downwards from canter (more of an issue on the right lead). This is a major hole in my right to left flying change. He's already bulging his shoulder when he knows it's coming so he either hops like crazy and drags me and doesn't change, or I muscle him into circling back. Not pretty.
Enter Serpentine From Hell. Not to be confused with Circle of Death (I'll explain that one if I ever use it again... probably won't have to until the next horse). I started a 3 loop serpentine in trot. I am pretty good at making the 20m loops (I'm awesome at ring geometry), however, the indoor is 160ft by 70ft (standard is 66ft by 198ft), so I had to adjust my bends and it took a couple of rounds. As I was working I noticed Mikey was flinging himself around the bends. I made an effort to be straight across centerline for several strides instead of the neat 20m to 20m bend I would normally ride that has one stride of straight. This seemed to help, but even in trot he was falling to the left.
I'm a bit stumped at the falling to the left. We were having connection issues, so maybe that's why, but I tried less bend when tracking right, I tried counter bend. I paid attention to what my seat bones were saying. I tried more left thigh and leg. Interestingly, he was running into the wall tracking right. Perhaps I need to practice riding him straighter that direction. But he's only got two legs when I see his head on reflection in the mirrors. I'm sure it also has something to do with the hole on that side; I have a tough time getting him to fill up the left side of his neck when tracking right. Part of it is also habit, he does it to my trainer when she first sits on him, she corrects him, and then he's fabulous. But this is why I wanted to carry two whips, so I could pick at his right side for a slow right hind, and his left shoulder for bulging.
Anyway, back to Serpentine From Hell. I tried a number of things, and what worked best was tapping him on the left shoulder with the whip, or raising my left hand to force him to look left and stop bulging. We worked in the trot until it was smooth, and then I moved on to canter with simple changes through walk at center line. I had the same bulge problem, but when I tried riding him straighter through the head and neck, he tensed but didn't bulge. I worked the 3 loop with simple changes until he started to come through and round both directions.
At the end I asked for a handful of flying changes as I changed his bend. The right to left was crapola, he wasn't doing smooth flying, I got one of what felt like a very good trot simple change- that single hitch step and off to the new lead. I got a running walk type change (he does that when he's not relaxed). I wasn't about to pick at them though. I was just happy he wasn't bulging through me. His balance is off that way, it'd be cruel for me to pick at him for not doing the flying, so I settled for whatever his answer was as long as it was the new lead (and he did answer with the new lead each time, even if it wasn't flying). I only did one left to right because he answered it so well- an immediate clean change. Lots of pats, and then off for a road walk. He'd been working for 45 min by that time. He got a Vetrolin bath after because it was still almost 70 out, and he has one of those nice Rambo Whitney Fleece coolers.
Not very thrilled with how his work is going (I am pleased with his left to right changes, they usually work), but I certainly have enough issues to bring to my lessons Thanksgiving week! Today I will do a repeat of yesterday, minus the road walk as it will be dark. I did manage a picture last night though:
|Complete with orange ear bonnet to make sure cars see us!|