Last night was so much fun, and then it snowed, which makes me very happy. Unlike most other Marylanders, I embrace snow. I love it, I live for it, and when it finally happens I get all kinds of happy. Unfortunately, it only flurried, and nothing snuck, but the fact that it was snowing last night WHILE I was riding my sta-puft marshmallow horse around bareback and without a bridle has put me on a bit of a natural high that has actually lasted into the next day.
But none of that is CANTER related, so I apologize.
In any case, before my little adventure in riding without mechanical means of control, I had a lovely ride on Afton. So far, the few times I’ve ridden at night have not gone as well as his usual rides. It has probably been coincidence- because he is field boarded, if it’s dark, I generally don’t ride him because it means stumbling through knee-deep mud totally blind, hoping he’s at the hay bale so I don’t have to wander over the entire field looking for him.
Fortunately, last night he WAS at the haybale, which was good, since I wanted to get at least one ride on him during the week in case prospective adopters showed up this weekend (likely not, since the weather will be horrible, but oh well). I figured that “I haven’t ridden him since last Sunday” may not go over well (on the other hand, maybe it would go over well, since he’s fine with long breaks).
So in we went, and I was initially worried- for the first time since I’ve known him, Afton did not have a pre-ride poo. I viewed this as suspicious, but went ahead, and I’m awfully glad I did.
Afton has finally learned how to go on a slack rein. Though he’s not fond of a tight rein, since I’ve been riding him, he seems to have preferred some level of contact, and my past attempts to let him go on a long rein have ended with him gradually getting faster and faster while he tries to figure things out. So for the past three rides, my focus has been trying to teach him how to regulate his pace without me being in his face all the time- that loose rein does not mean “go!” and that he has to hold his own rhythm.
It’s taken a while (I’m imagining a really good pro could probably teach this in about ten seconds, but I’m a monkey, so go easy on me), but we’re finally at a point where I can get on, and walk, then trot, on a nice loose rein without him getting speedy. We still have trouble once we move into the canter- for some reason after that first canter, the stuff we did earlier flies out the window a little bit, but this is still great progress.
Hopefully (at least, this is my goal), the next thing will be that he learns to start stretching out and down with his head, so we can begin working on long and low and start building that topline. Additionally, the weekly gymnastic jumping lessons are starting at our barn this Sunday. I can’t do this week, but if he’s still around next week we’re planning on joining (fortunately, there are enough people at these that it should be easy to finally snag some video!). He’s so unconcerned about single jumps that I don’t think gymnastics will phase him much, except to help him figure out his legs a little bit better.
We also worked a little more with getting him off my left leg. Though he “motorcycles” to the right, too, the left is a little more obvious- he likes to lean with his whole body (rather than just bulging a shoulder or travelling a little crooked). And when you add leg to try and push him out a little bit, he tends to lean on it more or bulge into it (which is interesting, seeing as we’ve successfully done some leg yielding. But his first response on a turn is to lean into the pressure rather than moving away from it). So I spent about ten minutes just at the walk, on establishing a better bend to the left, and then we called it quits.