The lack of updates about him may have clued some folks in, but Afton basically had the last week and a half completely off. After a very promising start, he threw a tiny scare into us by coming in with some swelling in his front legs. He was moving soundly and acting pretty normal, but just the same, it was noticeable so we decided not to push it. Besides, we have a bunch of other truly awesome horses to get ridden, so it pretty much worked out.
In any case, over the last four days or so I’ve been checking Afton’s legs and noting that they seem much better. No swelling, heat, or pulse. So I decided that I’d hop on and do a light ride on Monday, and see how it went. Recently, it seemed that Afton had regressed a teeny bit in the “standing” department, for tacking up and mounting. But yesterday he was back to being very good for both (though I admit I did have him take a few turns on the lunge line prior to getting on, just to be on the safe side). Once on board, we hacked around a little, not doing anything in particular except warming up at all three gaits. So far, so good.
Once we got to work, it was with all the same stuff Allie had been telling me in mind. Opening rein, inside leg, establish an actual bend. It seems he is retaining the lessons on leg- he’s moving away from it much better than he was, and keeping him on a track instead of leaning in seems much easier. The thing is, even when he’s giving with his hind legs, and being more or less correct with the general arc of his body, he doesn’t seem to be “giving” through his back yet. I don’t really know how to explain this, I know what it feels like but not how to talk about it.
Basically, when I got my horse started, and when I rode Klondike and Rosey, forwardness and bend seemed to be the key to inducing stretch and relaxation- all three of them started moving into the bit and stretching out, loosening through their whole body when those two things were established. Afton seems to have the forward, and is getting the bend, but isn’t really loosening up at all yet.
In our ride Monday, I came back to the walk to work on things a little more. I practiced smaller circles, using my inside leg and outside rein, directing the turn by pushing his hind end, rather than guiding him with the bit. Again, he seemed to get it and did quite well, but still feels sort of “locked” (for lack of a better word). We did that in both directions, though the left was a little more difficult than the right. Then we tried some leg yielding- again, he totally gets this. We were able to do some pretty respectable (at least, if you’re just watching the legs) leg yields from the quarter line to the rail in both directions.
I think I’m going to see if the amazing, magical dressage trainer I occasionally take lessons from (when I feel like I won’t need to walk at all that week) can hop on him this week. If so, I promise to get video because it promises to be both interesting and educational.
It probably will be the “key” to this guy- he’s dead honest about jumping and has pretty good instincts as far as that goes, and he also essentially has good balance. Once he starts “getting” stretch/relax and using his back better, he’ll be completely worth the eight million dollar price tag I’ve put on him 🙂
Oh, and before I forget, Allie has added the newest addition to the retraining program lineup: Prospect Park Please pay him a little visit! He’s going to be super fun to watch!