Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lesson 20: Conquering the Hard Hearted Horse

Louie was really wound up and naughty at my lesson this week.  I'm really not sure what got into him, but as I headed down to the outdoor arena (our first lesson in the outdoor, though we had ridden in it several times previously) I had planned on having about 20 minutes to warm up before I was set to begin.  I planned this as a little chance to "get the edge off" as both Louie and I were a little amped up that day. 

Well we got down there and Julie had finished early, so she started right in with my lesson.  Drat!  As she taught us the math of the outdoor arena and where each 20 meter circle should be, Louie walked along at what I felt was a gait that was ready to explode.  Eventually we trotted and instead of relaxing, Louie did a little short stride, back tight, head up, teeth grinding trot.  Ugh.  I knew I needed that warm up time!  Well we worked through it.  Louie was all over the place and had way more energy than he knew what to do with. 

Eventually he settled in a little bit and we worked on some shoulder in, leg yielding, and other lateral work, which Louie did quite well.  We worked a bit on extension as well, and we hit one diagonal with an awesome extension!  I think Louie is starting to pick up on what I'm looking for.  Our good extension came when we trotted across the far end of the arena fairly quickly, then Julie had us take the diagonal and try to slow down, yet cover ground.  That seemed to be a winning combination thought process. 

We later worked on the canter, which was not a pretty sight. . . As we cantered 3 strides on the left lead and broke, several times in a row, I kept failing in keeping him going, Julie kept telling me that all I need to do is lay the whip on him, so next time I did, and BAM!  Louie leaped through the air in what felt like a massive buck (but apparently was only a really big kick at the whip) and completely unseated me.  I lost my right stirrup, was sitting way off to the right of the saddle, Louie still cantering forward and to the left.  I tried to steer him into the rail to stop him, but he got to the rail and started going sideways so I further lost my balance, and my left stirrup.  I thought for sure I was going to come off, but thankfully I somehow stayed on, and once seated back in the center of the saddle with both feet in the stirrup, we had a little discussion about what the whip is and the fact that I can put it on him and he does NOT get to kick at it. . . . I think we've had this discussion numerous times, but it never seems to sink in.  So afterward, Julie was correcting my leg postition a little bit (my toes were sticking out like they sometimes have the tendency to do) and she said, "stab your toes into his hard heart!"  I thought that was a pretty good way to think about it. 

Well we proceeded with the lesson and didn't really get anything accomplished since he was now more wound up than before.  Julie pointed out that it was likely I would have to ride him like this at a show sometime in the future, so I best get prepared for it!  To work through it, I just continued to apply half halts and try to bend and stretch Louie around my inside leg.  We got through the lesson, but if it hadn't been a lesson, I would have galloped that horse around for a good 20 minutes then come back to what we were trying to do.  Though I don't think Julie believes me, Louie really needs a good long warm-up and for him, working him for a long time (running or trotting, spirals, etc) really does seem to help him get into a good state of mind if we have issues.  After all, that is kind of what we did at the show. . .

Since that awful ride, I'm happy to report that we've had two rides, one of which was quite nice- yesterday, in the indoor arena, with the sprinkler going.  Surprisingly enough, Louie did great with that, and we had a nice ride, he was very responsive to my aids, but not overly sensitive. 

I asked Julie if we could jump this week at my lesson, so I think I might show up in a jumping saddle for my next lesson.  I think Louie could use the change of pace- something different to do for a while.  We'll still work a lot of the same principles as we use in our flat work, but since we're not going to the Otter Creek spring show (we decided we're not quite ready for a rated show in less than one month's time), but I think the jumping will add an extra element of fun or challenge for Louie, that will help break up some of the repetitive dressage work for him. 

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