dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Age is just a Number

Okay, so I know that's a rather worn out and trite phrase. I know that age is also how many years you have been on the earth and as we age we simply are not a nimble as we used to be. However, I know I've been guilty of falling into the trap of expecting certain things based on a person's, dog's or horse's age.

I know that I'm not as nimble or flexible as I used to be but I feel better than I have in years and I've started this 'coach to 5 k' program to keep my heart healthy. I have far more energy than I did last year.

But enough about me.

I've been riding Steele as regularly as weather and my life allow. He's worked about 3-5 days per week and I vary the time. Sometimes it's about 60 mins all together and other times about 30. If we have a breakthrough the ride before the next ride I tend to just check that it's there and finish up. I don't want him to view the training as a grind.

Yesterday was my short work day and our friends were coming out to visit. Cynthia and I were going to ride while Ed and Andrew golfed and we would meet up later for dinner. It was a beautiful summer day. I started, as always with ground work. I do this until I know that he's tuned in then I stop and mount up. Sometimes it takes longer than others. Today was about 10 mins. So I mounted up and then we walked off on a long rein. He stayed nice and steady and I was able to steer and stop with minimal to no rein aids- just by using my seat. We were completely relaxed. Cynthia looked over and asked 'were you riding Irish on a long rein like that at 4?'. 'Nope'. Irish was much more reactive and nervous. For the first few years I could ride him on a 'longish' rein at the beginning but I had to keep a bit short just in case.

We headed into trot work. Our rhythm is getting steadier and more consistent. As we trotted across the diagonal I could feel him thinking of canter. That was the first time so I decided to let him. I put him on the circle, sat up and said 'aaaand CANter' while giving him he leg cue that I eventually want him to know. He picked it up immediately. I stay in a half seat for the canter so he feels he has room- I don't want to come hard on his back. We cantered a full circle for the first time. Up to now I've been doing short bouts of canter.  That was to the right. Going to the left is more difficult for him (Irish is opposite). So after a few canters right and a break (filled with effusive praise) I picked up the trot to the left. I asked for a canter. We spiralled in on the circle. Oops. Back out we go. Ask again. Same thing. hmm. So I refocus on making sure that the circle is good, my weight is not to the inside get a good and forward trot and ask again. Bingo. Got it. We cantered around the circle and I gave him lots of praise. I could feel he was going to break because he's not as balanced so I ask him to trot first so I can tell him he's a good boy.

I should mention that much of this work is done with very little rein contact.

We continue our work. Now Cynthia does not have to steer around us quite as much- we can manage the left-to-left rule for passing.

On the ground I've been introducing the idea of leg yielding and he finds it pretty easy. I decide to try it under saddle at the walk. I get a nice walk down the quarter line and make sure we're straight. Then every time his belly swings away from my inside leg I give a little push and open my outside leg and hand to give him room. He goes sideways. It's a baby leg yield and very shallow and exactly where I wanted it.

I ask Cynthia if she's up for a small hack. She agrees so I take Steele and the dogs down to the barn and put the dogs in the tack room. They are insulted but I don't want them bombing around and creating havoc. I take Steele back out of the barn and mount him just outside. This is the first time I've ever done that. He's confused.
"aren't we done?"
"no not yet."
"I'm sure we're done"
"just one more thing"
"okay but this is weird"
I ride him back up the hill to the ring where Cynthia and Irish are waiting. We trot the last wee bit. Irish, being the older, more experienced horse, is to be the leader so Steele can learn that going out of the ring is fun. We have our property set up so that there's an outside track all the way around the paddocks. This is useful for work with the tractor and for riding. Ed keeps it mowed too. We walk off, Irish leading. Fifteen feet later and Irish spooks (at what? we have no idea). Steele freaks, spins and begins to bolt
run away! flee for your lives! 
WHOA  I say quite strongly. He whoas so hard I'm propelled forward a bit on his neck. Thank heavens for those Andalusian necks- it gives me something to grab. Thank heavens that Royce trained that 'whoa' in. Thank heavens for my saddle which is perfect for my seat. Thank heavens for a horse that is my partner.

Cynthia tightens up the reins on Irish and off we go. Steele is a bit excited to be behind Irish and I have to slow him up quite a few times. Once I asked Cynthia to stop so we could whoa and get settled. We headed down to the bottom of the hill. Outside their paddock Ed has some railway ties piled. They are new. Irish stops and decides that he's not going by those. Uh-uh. nope. We all think about this and the options. We could push Irish by but if he spooks that's not helpful for Steele. I decide to dismount and lead Steele to the ties. He walks right up, sniffs them and crops grass totally relaxed. Irish comes by with no problem. We start to walk back. Cynthia points to a small wall around my big maple. I lead Steele up to it, he's facing away from Irish but he stands perfectly still while I mount up. and then he leads Irish back to the barn. I tell Cynthia "someone is so clever but I think it's me for deciding to purchase this horse"

So to recap. Yesterday we: cantered, hacked out, mounted, dismounted, mounted all outside the ring, survived a spook and carried on.

I love my horses.
Almost 4 years old

14 years old
Irish will always be a hotheaded red head but Steele at 14 is going to be incredible. I suspect that I will be able to put anyone on him and they'll be fine - as long as he likes them.

We finished up the day but having a wonderful dinner on the deck of restaurant overlooking the bay. I did my share of consuming a bottle of wine but it was a celebration after all.

1 comment:

  1. Way to go on the cantering!! Good job!

    I still ride Chrome on a loose rein. I've had dressage lessons but I actually don't know how to teach a horse to ride on contact (I can ride it, but not teach it lol) so I'm waiting for when we start lessons. I don't want to teach it wrong!

    I love that you have a track around your property! That is so awesome. I wish I could do that.

    You're definitely clever for buying Steele!! He is awesome! Don't you love that baroque horse personality? I'm not dissing Irish and his redheaded hotness, but I just love the mellow, confident attitude Steele (and Chrome) has. :D


Thank you for leaving a comment. I love the feedback.