Unfortunately, due to a really horrific weather forecast, Afton had no prospective owners come see him this weekend. Actually, it’s fine with me, because it means more fun! And to be totally fair, it was an awful weekend weather-wise… wet and cold.
Saturday I met up with Allie for breakfast before going out to the barn. It’s nice to finally have someone around for a little guidance- Allie hadn’t really seen Afton go very much, so she took the time to come and watch from the ground, to see where she could help.
As I’ve mentioned here before, we have some problems with leaning in on the turns- Afton has trouble holding his body up around the turn and moving off my inside leg, especially to the left. What was less recognizable to me was what I was doing in response to that- and now I feel like a HUGE schmuck, because basically, it’s the same problem I’ve been fighting against for YEARS and once had me asking the question “why do all the horses I ride cut in to the left?”
The answer, basically, is that when I feel that, my intuitive response is first to try and push the horse over with my leg but also with my hand, falling into the trap of the indirect rein. Then, when that makes things worse (duh), the entire left side of my body collapses. Though Allie mostly focused on me opening my upper body and using more of a leading rein, and really using my leg, somewhere towards the end of the ride the lightbulb switched on in my head that when I start pushing with the left leg, my upper body sort of scrunches to the left, like I’m trying to push him over with my shoulder as well. End result of that? It’s even HARDER to keep my inside hand open, and it actually weakens the strength of my leg.
When I was riding Sunday I really tried to focus on doing the opposite- if anything was going to collapse, it was going to be my right side. And (duh) I found this made my left leg much more effective- with my body straighter I get more leverage out of it.
Either way, I also joined a gym this weekend- riding with Allie giving me pointers left me a little jelly-legged, and that just isn’t right.
So, that aside, it was a big weekend for Afton, who did all sorts of new things. After working on the flat a little bit Saturday we jumped a few jumps, and then had Afton try his very first line. It was a three stride set for cantering, but he had no trouble getting three when trotting in. It took him a couple attempts to actually land from the first jump in the canter, and keep the canter on the way out, but he got it after only a few tries.
Yay! Good boy! (and, gotta love Allie’s sound effects… heee!)
Today was the first gymnastic lesson of the year. Over the winter our barn owner sets up a different gymnastic every week, and for a few bucks anyone can join in the fun. So today Afton did his very first gymnastic. Though we started small, with poles on the ground, it was all built up to eventually be three trot poles to the first jump, one stride to a very skinny jump, then two strides to an oxer, followed by a circle around the end of the ring to a bounce set on either side of the path of the main gymnastic (it makes sense when you watch it). So here’s some footage of us working on that:
We sort of stumbled over the last bounce, so we went and redid it before quitting:
What’s amazing to me was that with all the new stuff he encountered today, he never blinked an eye. He is super honest, and pretty casual about this jumping thing. He never gets worked up about it, or runs off afterwards. Once you have him on the path, he stays straight and doesn’t waver. When I rode my horse in these last year, and in riding a couple of the other canter guys, I was expecting at least a little bit of wiggling on the way in to the line.
The closest he got to wavering was to put one foot very slightly out on the approach to the skinny when it first went from crossrail to vertical. But in that nanosecond he processed what his job was and went for it.
I also have to give him loads of credit for being that great with me on him. I know I call myself a monkey all the time, and I probably should give myself more credit. But the reality is with my crookedness issues, and tendency to jump ahead, I would understand 100% if a horse decided to stop or run out (which my own horse does to keep me honest). This one just goes. And all I can think is that if he does this well for me, a really excellent rider is going to take him really far, and I cannot WAIT to see him get there.
I also think we should raise his price to a million and a half dollars. 🙂