Friday, November 29, 2013

Laredo and the Five Horse Arena

As I've mentioned before, the indoor arena at our barn is on the small side. I am not complaining about its size. I am grateful to have a place to ride in the winter, even if it's not ideal. Still, the fact that it is small comes into play to influence our rides sometimes.

Today we headed out thinking we'd have the place to ourselves again. We were wrong about that. Brian and I (and Zoey and Laredo) were the first two into the arena, but within five minutes we were joined by the barn manager giving a girl a lesson on Sassy. A few minutes after that, the barn manager's daughter came in on her horse, Smokey, and a bit after that another boarder entered with her horse.

That was five horses and riders in the arena, plus the barn manager with a whip who often had to help steer Sassy. Needless to say, things were a little crowded.

I was on Laredo, and he's pretty chill about most kinds of activity. My goal for the ride was to keep him energetic. After my handful of rides with spurs, I've feel like they are making him defensive. I've decided I'm not going to use them regularly, though I might put them on at intervals.

I've been thinking a lot about what we've learned at various clinics about horses that get bogged down in the details. At Buck's clinics, he tends to tell people to lope a horse across the arena if it starts to get dull. Martin Black has a similar strategy. I think Laredo's problem is he can lose confidence in himself when he's asked for something complex. If he starts out distracted or just not interested, that leads quickly to him throwing up walls and ignoring anything that happens after the first failed attempt.

So today I went out with a new plan. Basically any time I asked Laredo for anything and he responded with dullness or distraction, I kicked him into a trot or a lope, made him go a few laps around the arena, returned to the same place we'd been, and asked for the same thing again.

I have to say, it worked quite well. I only had to do it a few times, but every time we came back to the place we'd started and I asked for whatever we'd failed at a second time, he gave me energy and try. With Laredo, I don't care so much about him getting everything right, I just want effort.

Having all the extra commotion in the arena turned out to be kind of fun. We spent a lot of time in the trot, and any time half a lap of space opened up, I'd push Laredo into the lope for a few strides, then bring him back to the trot. It was good practice for both of us, and I think the combination of the varied company plus my modified method kept him more interested for longer.

Zoey did really well with all the chaos as well. She's turning into quite the little trucker.

This photo is from a week or two ago. I never used it but I thought it was pretty funny.


Ride Time: 1:20
Horseback Hours YTD: 165:55

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