So tonight we continued working on what Carey showed us last night. Lots of bending around cones at both a walk and a trot. Lots of me really thinking about keeping him straight on the straightaways and really getting him to bend on the corners. I also set up some trot poles (before I got on, SprinklerBandit) but after we trotted through them a couple times, it was obvious I'd set them to an awkward distance. So I got off, re-set them, and climbed back on and he floated right on through them. :D Time was, he'd hit every pole when we did them so he's definitely at least learned that much. Even when they were set awkwardly, he didn't really hit them, but his strides felt weird.
Was also able to trot all around the rail on a loose (er) rein without him drifting too much in which is an improvement. We had cones in each of the corners to help keep a visual of where we should be staying on the "track".
Also did a short canter in each direction but I really need to put a grab strap on my saddle until I can wean myself off of grabbing to hold something when we transition. Right now I'm grabbing mane and I think he's learned that (I've mentioned it before) as a cue to transition up which is not something I want him to think. I need to remember to also grab mane and then make him stay at the same gait or even ask for a downward transition so he disassociates it.
I didn't ride as long tonight as last night, but that was okay, we both worked hard enough. :) I wish I had some pictures of us riding but nobody was in the barn to take them, so you'll have to make do with the one above that I took after we rode.
Had a lesson tonight with the stand-in instructor who's stepping in while Christina is essentially on maternity leave (due to foal any day now. ).
Carey actually was the one who put the first rides/training on Kieran for me after I got him so she's got an interesting perspective on him compared to everyone else.
Anyway, I'd mentioned he has a habit of drifting inward off the rail and it feeling like he doesn't really get what I mean when I try to bump him back over with my inside leg. So she had us (Christine was also riding her horse who has a similar issue) do lots of small circles around cones she had placed in each corner of the ring. Except, wait.
First we started out at a halt. She had me just let go of one rein, and then hold the other one back to my knee and ask for his head. Then we added in me asking him to move "forward" so that he'd follow his nose around and cross over with his hind end. We also talked about picking up his shoulder (which I'd read about but not really done) and making sure on those turns that I'm keeping my shoulders straight because if I drop my inside shoulder, so will he.
Then we went to do the circles around the cones at a walk. Same sort of thing, moving my inside hand low and back toward my knee, giving with the outside hand (but not throwing it away this time) and sort of pushing with my inside heel at the girth. Obviously, the hands and everything are very exaggerated because he's green and just learning about how to bend and bring his head down (we talked about if I hold my hands up, then his head will come up, etc) and eventually I wouldn't have to use my hands like this. Once we did that both ways at the walk, we started doing it at the trot (not quite so small circles, LOL). Carey also talked about how on the straightaway, to get his nose turned a bit inward without him drifting in, I could try holding my inside hand just over the center of his withers instead of moving my hand away from his body.
We talked about how a lot of people just get on and ride and that's fine (and pretty much a lot of what I've done with him) but to get really get past that green stage, you have to start thinking about riding the whole horse and doing things like this, little adjustments with your hands, really controlling where he's putting his shoulders, that sort of thing, is where you start getting beyond just getting on and riding. I've talked on this forum in the past about it being difficult for me to feel like I was getting him to understand what I wanted when I tried bumping him over with my leg but I started to really feel him listening tonight when I did it after doing the earlier exercises.
That was pretty much all we did in the lesson. Though we did talk the bit about keeping the nose slightly inward and keeping his shoulders from dropping would make the canter transition easier (and getting the proper lead too, though we haven't really had a problem with that so far).
After that, someone else had her lesson and was okay with me staying in the ring so I continued riding, trying to think about where I was putting my hands and so on. Carey had set up a low vertical for her to go over and we tried trotting over it several times but Jughead couldn't figure out how high to put up his feet so we mostly crashed through it and I backed off of doing that and just kept trotting around most of the time. I realized a lot of our rides lately we'd just been moseying along or, trotting with lots of walk breaks, or just not very long rides at all and so I wanted to work on both of our endurance, what with trail riding season coming up. I could tell he was starting to get tired by the end (I was in the saddle for about an a hour and a half total tonight, though obviously not all of that was constant working) but he did really well and is still leaps and bounds beyond where he was a few months ago.
Carey suggested we work on more small circles (mostly we just do 20meter ones or so, we don't do a lot of small ones) and weaving through cones to get him bending. I figure I also want to do more trot poles with him (I always think about it and then never set them up before I get in the saddle. *facedesk*) and possibly do them slightly off the ground to encourage him to pick up his feet more.
Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been riding, but it's been a lot of wandering around the farm and nothing really "new" (though we did trot over the logs in the big pasture last weekend! Maybe we can eventually work up to actually jumping over them.) so I haven't felt too compelled to post anything. I haven't been lessoning because my instructor is due to foa-...give birth any day now so she's mostly been at home with her feet propped up and all. ;) She does have a temp instructor who stepped in so I'm planning on at least doing a lesson or two with her (Carey Reed, who also did the first few weeks of training on Kieran) until Christina comes back from stall rest. ;) Maybe then, I'll have something to talk about in regards to me and the pony.
I did get to witness Kieran's Biggest. Spook. Ever. yesterday. He was giving a lesson to a gentleman who has kind of fallen for him (I'm always hearing about if I ever want to give up Kieran, that they'd be glad to take him off my hands, etc.). Uh, anyway, the end door was open and out beyond the end door there's a pile of extra footing covered in a tarp. The tarp wasn't as well weighted down as it should have been (I think stuff got moved around) and it was a bit breezy and while they were passing the end door, a gust of wind came along and lifted that tarp up. Kieran tried to scoot away (pretty sure that was a take-off-into-canter-for-a-couple-of-strides moment) but he came right back for his rider and no harm done. We closed the end door after that though Kieran continued to be suspicious of it. ;)
Okay, I admit, it wasn't a "real" trail ride BUT there were trees and hills and a stream and snow and deer so....trail!
Anyway, here's what happened:
It was a really really nice day today. Still chilly but it felt heavenly compared to how it has been. That and the sun was out and there wasn't a lot of wind...it was nice. And I didn't want to ride Kieran in the indoor for a few reasons:
1) I'm plain tired of it, and I'm sure he is too. 2) There were still lessons going on and I would've had to wait till they were over, except I couldn't because I had to help get ready (and get myself ready) for a baby shower for one of the barn folks later in the afternoon.
So Kieran and I went for a ride around the farm. My original idea was just to go up the driveway to the road, visit the dead end circle, visit the mailbox, come back then go up the driveway to the house, around the garage, back down and around and back and up and around again. Probably trotting up the slopes at both ends.
But then I started thinking.
The road along the barn didn't look THAT muddy. Maybe we could walk along it too toward the hay barn.
By the time we got all the way back there....it didn't look THAT bad, maybe we could walk along behind the hay barn, between the fenceline of the big field and the trees, and up back around again.
But right behind the hay barn is one of the entrances onto the little trails on the back of the property. I'm looking in there. I'm thinking, "okay, there's still some snow back there, but the ground looks good, I mean...we could just [i]walk[/i]...."
So we did, until we got just far enough in to the first stream crossing. It's a little downhill slope to the stream and you have to walk a couple feet over up the stream to where the trail starts again (so it's not just a straight across thing). Kieran plants his feet, refuses to go into the stream. I am mildly boggled, he's been in water before. Though it occurs to me that that was just puddles and on the beach and with other horses to lead the way. So we have several minutes there where we argue. I try to convince him to go forward, we just go side to side or back up. I have a moment where I imagine that today will be the day he decides, "screw you, sister!" and bucks while we're on that slope and I go falling SPLASH into the stream and he goes running back to his buddies and oh by the way, I didn't tell anybody I was thinking about actually riding in the woods nor did I have my phone with me (me: dumbass.). Of course, he doesn't do anything of the kind and I break off a tiny twig from a nearby sapling and wave it at him as if I'm holding a crop and it doesn't take much more convincing and he's sighing and going into the water and up the other side (to lots of praise).
I also admit I had this moment where I thought about all those stories I've heard of people saying you should listen when your horse refuses because it could mean the footing is bad and the second you finally get them to give in, they sink in quicksand up their bellies or whatever. I mean, Kieran doesn't typically flat out [i]refuse[/i] anything, but it really seemed like he was just going, "srsly? there could be MONSTERS in there, mom!" so...we went through. Plus I figured once I'd started the "discussion", I couldn't really then let him get his way and turn around and go back to the barn.
Anyway, then we went walking through the woods for real and possibly blazed a trail a little bit where there was still a couple inches of snow and it was hard to see the actual trail. We also saw several deer (not that they bothered Kieran any beyond him lifting his head a moment and watching them). We also had to cross the stream a couple more times (much less of an ordeal) and then we finally went up the big hill and ended up out back behind the house and walked back down the driveway to the barn (though actually, I walked him all the way to the end of the driveway, then back up to the house again, then to the barn to be "done", mostly because several other times we've come straight down to the barn and I've gotten off and we've been over and I didn't want him thinking we'd do it like that EVERY time).
Anyway, all in all, he was a very good boy (as usual) and it was nice to get out of the ring and do something different.
Some other notable things:
One of the times trotting up the hill toward the house while we were still just doing the driveway, we accidentally cantered. Or, I was just asking him for more trot and he cantered instead. I don't know why I think this is cool, but I do. (he came right back down when asked, so no big deal)
It's funny, he'll quite willingly trot UP the hills but walking back down them he suddenly gets veeeeerrrryyyyy sloooooow.
Usually, when we go out of sight of the other horses alone, he'll call for them, at least a few times. He didn't once today. I hope that's a sign he's getting more confident alone. Or, at least, trusting his rider.
Went up and rode by myself tonight. I think I feel more relaxed if I don't have anybody else watching me. Except that then there's the pressure to come up with stuff to DO. Hah.
So tonight, I set up a few trot poles on one side of the arena by the wall and on the other side of the arena, I set up about five or six orange cones about 4 big steps apart to use for weaving through. We started the evening by just walking around, over the poles, through the cones, going both directions. Then we went through them trotting (I just went around the ring a couple times straight before going through the cones). I tried to stay cognizant through the ride of keeping steady with the outside rein and pushing him over with my inside leg when he'd want to start drifting off the wall. This is much easier to do when he's just walking than when we're trotting, hah!
We also did some transitions when I asked him to halt and he didn't want to stand for a second. So he got to walk-halt-walk-halt-back up-walk-halt. ;) We did a bit somewhere in there too of trot-halt-trot which he did really well at.
Before we both got too tired, I asked him for a canter. This time I didn't worry too much about coming out of the corner, just tried to make sure I wasn't pulling his head around to the outside, and that I really sat for the transition. And that I kept after him until he gave me what I wanted. :) I only realized after we cantered one direction a few strides that I'd asked him to do it for me his "bad" direction (going to the right) but it hadn't been as difficult as it used to be and I wasn't riding with a whip.
Then we went and did it going to the left which was much easier and once again we got a full circuit around the ring. (well, not completely full, I let him go to the inside track to avoid the ground poles :) ). I made sure each time we stopped cantering that we stopped because I asked for it and he got walk breaks in between sets.
After that, we did some other exercises, mostly at a walk, a lot to do with getting him listening more to leg and seat for turning and stopping and some more with getting him to move over toward the wall instead of in toward the center as we went around. And we had several walk-with-no-reins breaks. Really, it wasn't that long of a ride (no more than 40 minutes, I think closer to a half hour) but it was a nice one. He's, as I usually say, such a good boy.
Tomorrow is my last lesson for a while. Christina is taking a break because she's supposed to have a baby within the month. I could take lessons with the backup instructor (the trainer, Carey Reed, who put a few weeks of training on Kieran) but some external-to-horses-or-the-people-in-question issues mean I figured it'd just be better to take a break from lessons for a while. Same goes for Hilary, alas.
Hopefully, I can get things straightened out and get back to doing lessons soon but even if I don't, I'll still be riding Kieran. :)