Being that our Minnesotan weather system has finally come out of the deep freeze we had, with highs now in the 20's-30's, I saw fit to get Louie back on track with his regular work routine. Sunday we lunged, as I have learned that a very fresh horse in long lines can sometimes be a recipe for disaster, so I felt lunging was just a bit safer to start with, burning off some steam. While we did work on all 3 gaits, the right lead canter continues to frustrate me. But for the sake of keeping his walk and trot good and true, on Monday, Tuesday, and today, we long lined.
The first real day back, Louie's work did not go quite as smoothly as it had before our break. Louie was a little fresh, not super easy to handle, and trotted out in more of a stilty type, short strided gait. Throughout the week, we've improved upon that, now with more of a ground-covering stride, and the ability to both slow down and to extend within both the walk and the trot. We have been working on a nice loose and relaxed, swingy walk, aiming for an overstride with good stretch. We've been focusing on walk-trot transitions too, trying to avoid the whole head-lift jump-start into the faster gait. This has been better overall, but will need lots of work to stay consistent.
Louie is responding pretty nicely to my cues, but is tending to walk off before asked from the halt. We find it especially tempting to walk off when there is something or somebody of interest within a 15-foot circle from where we have stopped. This is a challenge that we will encounter regularly, however, so it is good to recognize these areas which need improvement so that we know what to work towards. This is definately something that we can improve upon, and standing is a very important skill for a driving horse, yet quite challenging for a youngster.
Today we did a few 3- and 4-loop serpentines at the trot, and on Tuesday, we worked small serpentines from the rail at the walk, with me walking behind and using the reins around his haunches to ask him to bend and yield with his hind end. These, in addition to his stall exercises and stretches, are wonderful for suppling and developing better communication and responsiveness in the lines.
Today we did have a few "spirited" moments. I worked Louie in the early afternoon, while the other horses were still outside, as the barn is always a little different when the stalls are empty. With the warm up, there has been some snow melting on the roof of the arena and falling through the vents periodically. Today just as we were trotting by the far end of the arena, a little bit of snow fell right in front of Louie. Shocked at what kind of awful creature might have fallen from the sky right before him, he stopped, snorted, jumped in place and stopped again, then cantered off with a few bucks and head flips. I gathered him up, re-framed him, and got him into a beautiful animated and lofty trot, and had him do a few circles in that end of the arena until he passed that spot without breaking gait or drifting from the rail. Periodically throughout the remainder of the workout, bits of snow would fall down or he'd hear a noise that startled him, and he'd have a little "spirited moment." These were few and far between, fortunately, but really quite fun to watch!
Overall, we seem to be picking up about where we left off. Our goals within the coming weeks including restoring that beautiful floaty extended trot that we had been doing, improving our halt, and continuing to work on responsiveness and suppling. And of course. . . the cart.