First I double checked to make sure that the ring had thawed. It was perfect. So I put a halter on the red head and we headed to the barn. When he came in I realized that he had lost a front shoe. I'm not surpised- the ground has been quite muddy and he's due for a trim.
oh did you want to ride? My bad. I know you had your little heart set on it. Better luck next time.
Ha! Not so fast mister.
I cleaned his feet and then rummaged in the tack room and brought out my Old Mac horse boots. I bought these a few years ago and they have been worth every penny. I put it on and continued with tacking up. Steele stayed outside and completely ignored us. I mounted and headed up to the ring.
As always we started our warm up on a long rein. How long the rein is depends on Irish. If he's a bit excited he tends to imitate a giraffe. While I'm sure that giraffes are perfectly fine it's not in Irish's best interest to imitate one. For one thing it's not good for his back and second he's far more likely to spook. So when he's like that I shorten up a bit to encourage him to stretch down and over his back and feed the rein as needed. His walk was definitely forward. I find it works best with him to spend time on the walk warm up and not jump right to trot and canter. So after a few circles and a couple leg yields I asked for the trot. Boing- he bounded forward from behind into this lovely working trot. After a few strides he asked if he could stretch so I gradually fed him the rein and we did this lovely stretchy trot all the way around the ring without a change in pace or with him inverting. It may not sound like much but this was impossible a few years ago- he would always fling his head up and or fall on his nose or build up speed like a runaway train. I slowly shortened the reins and asked him to come into contact. It all happened without issue. Again this is a big breakthrough. Somehow, despite the time off my body/brain has finally figured out to not use the hands but the legs to ask him to come into contact. And because he's feeling good he can do it. I crossed on the diagonal and I could feel him saying come on, you know you want to.. So I half halted and gave the cue to canter. Again I was rewarded with a lovely, forward, bouncy canter. He began to blow in time to the strides and just sat there and stayed out of his way.
It wasn't all perfect- there were a few difficult transitions up and down but none of the resisitance I used to get, more like habit. A few deep breaths and corrections and it was all pretty good. It would have been easy to keep going but it was only our second ride of the year so I made sure to take lots of stretch breaks and kept it to 45 minutes.
When I came back Ed had pulled the SUV partly into the barn to vacuum it so I just led him into a stall to untack. I then went out and looked for the shoe. No luck there. It will probably turn up when we drag it and reseed it in a month or so.
I'm glad I rode him before he had a chance to do this: