OK, I think I’m going to put Afton-on-the-Pessoa-rig pictures aside for later in the week, because we all had a wonderful Sunday.
Because the free jumping went reasonably well yesterday, we decided Stephen might be fun in the gymnastic lesson. Because he’s somewhat weak, Allie thought it would be better for me to ride him- being a little weak, apparently when you ride, any imbalance you have is magnified. If you tilt left a little, Stephen drifts left. If you tip right, off he goes to the right. So we figured that being a little smaller with a lower center of gravity, I’d be easier for him to handle.
Allie rode Afton, and also gave him some remedial flatwork before the lesson. Unfortunately I missed most of that, as I was busy running around looking for the right saddle and pad combination that would be comfortable for Stephen (my saddle is far too wide, and the saddle that fits him best bridges a little). I hear, however, that he had some bona fide correct bending going on, so that’s a huge step for him.
I’ve ridden Stephen a few times- several times on trails, and once before in the ring, but at the time I only did some trotting, with ground poles and such. Warming up, I immediately noticed even more of a difference in his energy level from last time. Unlike Afton, Stephen is much more of a cruise control time- you set the speed, and he basically stays there until you tell him to change it.
In the corners, he had a little leaning going on, and seemed to want to cut his turns a little. The cool thing, though, is that his weakness makes it much easier to correct than it would be on a horse like Afton. Correcting him, and getting a real bend, and pushing him into the corner, was MUCH easier and less frustrating for me than it has been on Afton.
All I can say about his canter is that it’s AMAZING. He just has the most relaxed, easy to sit canter I’ve been on in quite some time. I love Afton’s canter, but Stephen is different- it feels longer, and he’s slower with his legs. It would be like comparing a Crown Victoria with a Mazda.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the jumping- he’d never actually been ridden over jumps before (unless you count a few logs in the woods). And the first time through, he may have stumbled a little bit. Fortunately they build the grid up piece by piece, so the horses can master one part at a time.
By the end, the whole thing was a bounce to a one stride to another one stride. Stephen had a few moments where things didn’t go so well- there were a few jumps crashed through, and a couple moments that made me question why we thought this was a good idea, but he figured it out as he went and never got flustered.
At one point he tripped a little landing from the skinny, but he figured out his legs and carried me safely out over the last jump.
There were a few near-runouts and one actual one, but these seemed caused more by me tipping, than by anything else, because he didn’t seem worried or concerned about the jumps at all, and the next time through, if I stayed straight, he did too. He sort of follows your shoulders.
The last trip through was pretty dead on- he came in with enough energy, I added leg at the right time after the bounce to get him over the skinny, which gave us enough momentum to jump out over the oxer easily and from what I hear, in good form.
The fun part about the process was how into it Stephen was getting. As soon as he figured out the goal, he got a little hard to hold back, and seemed eager to get going (but he managed this without getting anxious or running to the jumps, either- he just got way excited when he figured it was HIS TURN!!!). Afterwards, he was positively cocky- pricking his ears and arching his neck a little. I don’t think he has any self esteem problems. 🙂
Oh, and he also can do lead changes- again, probably because he’s fairly weak so it’s easy to shift his weight, heh.
It was fun to watch Afton, though he was making it clear that he’s no longer terribly impressed by crossrails, and mostly tried to trot them like slightly raised cavaletti. Once things got put together and a little bigger though, he reminded us of why we’re so impressed with him. He’s just such a cute little jumper! The Miata to Stephen’s luxury car. 🙂
After the lesson we went for a nice little walk around the fields, and of course Stephen was a little star.
Stay tuned- some video of Afton from the gymnastic lesson, and photos from Saturday’s lunging session will be coming soon 🙂