No, *I’M* not important, I just looked in the blog stats and got quite a chuckle out of the fact that searching that phrase apparently brought someone to this blog. I’m going to have to make that a tag.
Anyway, the last couple days have been challenging for me, emotionally speaking. Without getting into specifics, I’ll just say that horses are always good for a little heartbreak, and with lots of emails and scheduling and vet stuff flying around, I needed a weekend off. I am very fortunate to be seeing someone who’s good at reminding me of that fact, and so I spent the actual weekend doing fun non-horse related things (despite the last post which listed the horse-lovers weekend itinerary). I went to the air show at Andrews Air Force Base, and then Sunday a wine festival in nearby Columbia. It was pretty awesome, and just what I needed.
Of course, that meant Monday hit me like a brick. Got into work to find out one of my bigger projects was all kinds of messed up, batch testing hadn’t caught some pretty significant issues, and I was going to be having fun all day getting things fixed and re-run. Too many emails to sort through, both from work and CANTER-related. All kinds of things I have to look into and check and remind myself of so I can get back to people later with requested information, etc… ugh. And of course bad personal news too. So all in all, I needed last night to go well!
Someone is scheduled to come see Archie this afternoon (I do have to check that – the weather is icky and since she wants to see horses out at the layup farm too, which is awfully weather dependent), so I wanted to ride him yesterday and make sure things are all good with him.
Things started on a good note when he was right by the gate when I went to get him – for once I wouldn’t have to slog my way through calf-deep mud! Unfortunately as he came out of the gate he dove for grass to his right, which meant his butt was swinging straight towards my face, and I was completely at the end of the lead rope with the horse in my left hand and the gate to my right. Determined not to let go of Archie, and to remind him that this was completely unnacceptable, I had to actually let go of the gate.
At the same time, Archie’s very herdbound companion realized he was leaving, and she came galloping towards the now wide-open gate while I struggled with getting him turned around. I’m not sure how I managed it, but apparently me standing in the middle of an 18 foot wide open space waving one arm and growling was sufficient means of getting her to stop. Got the gate closed, got Archie reminded (a bit) of manners, and headed up the driveway.
From there everything was fine until he turned his head at me while girthing up. Also not acceptable. Bad Archie! I corrected him (a bit strongly, I’m afraid) and he was then perfectly polite. When I went to get on, he also started walking before I really had even started to swing up, but I was able to correct him very easily and he backed up and waited politely for the second attempt.
Once on, we had a fairly lovely ride in the indoor. He is making fewer faces at his reflection in the mirror, but largely because I’m trying to keep him thinking/occupied. We started at the walk just working on serpentines and figure eights, while keeping his neck and shoulders as straight as possible. He does seem to have started coming behind the bit or below it, so while working on this I also spent a lot of time with leg on and really emphasizing forward from behind, to discourage. A couple times I had to practically boot him forward so that he was using himself better.
Up into the trot and we worked on the same things. I also spent a lot of time on circles in the middle of the ring, where he can’t depend on the wall so much (he tends to fall inwards through the turn and then bulge his body out towards the wall as he approaches it). Staying off the wall as much possible, I just alternated direction and started practicing large circle-small circle-large circles. The next step would be a little more bending work and spiralling in and out, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
When I went to work on the canter I found it’s actually much easier on both of us to act from a reasonably organized walk. On the right lead, you can get a fairly clean transition from the trot but I find everything feels much better from the walk. To the left, asking from the trot doesn’t really get me anywhere – we keep picking up the wrong lead and he wants to rush, and the second he gets at all disorganized you give up any chance you had at the left lead. Even from the walk we had substantial issues with that lead, though we eventually got it and maintained it for a few circles. I think as he gets more strength this will all get much, much easier, but part of me is impatient and wants everything better right NOW!
When I started getting frustrated about the left lead canter I slowed down, took a breath, and went back to working at the trot. I figure the canter is hard because he’s weak behind and still somewhat inflexible through his body. So I went back to the trot, and started working a bit more on bending and lateral movement (not too much, he’s a wiggle worm!) , and more transitions to build up that rear end strength. We finished on a really good note – I did a series of figure eights (well, more like coming across the diagonal over and over) trying to really encourage him into a more forward trot with impulsion (and straightness! haha! This is the big key to riding him). and really trying to encourage him to stretch his head down and out (he likes to get behind the bit and avoid contact, as I mentioned earlier). I eventually got what I was asking for – for about ten strides to the left his head went down, but I could feel weight in my hands at the same time, and he kept his forward impulsion. So we quit with that and called it a night.
Physically he has finally lost the vast majority of his weird hair and is developing a nice shiny coat. Still needs more weight but things are slowly filling in, and you can see some cover developing on his ribs (finally!) . Can’t wait for an opportunity to get new pics and video!