Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Breaking Records

Typically for us, January is a month of not much riding. It's always cold. The new year always seems to come with a rush of work. It seems like a good time to hunker down with a throw blanket and a cup of tea. But today Brian and I both felt we could use an afternoon out with our equines. I rode Steen, he rode Zoey.

One of my goals for 2014 and Steen is to work on the canter. Overall, his canter has improved dramatically in the last six months or so. We have more balance and control, more precise maneuverability. Today there were a  bunch of random objects around the arena. I worked on dodging around them at the canter. Steen was really great. We threaded between the large ball and the arena wall, picked a path around someone on foot giving a lesson and the mounting block, and loped circles of all different shapes and sizes. Going into a bend, he will soften and wait for my indication on how deep I want the turn.

His downwards transitions are what still needs work. Once he gets cantering, Steen wants to stay there. He tends to be late going from canter to trot, and when we work on complicated things like lead changes, he tends to anticipate, try too hard, and end up making mistakes (like giving me big fancy tuck-and-hop, but not actually changing leads).

This means we need to practice transitions so they are less exciting for him. But because his transitions aren't spot-on, I have to back things up with my hands more than I usually do. And when I do that for a little while, Steen will start to get a little dull to his super-soft roo-hide hackamore. So then I have to slow down and work on getting him soft again so I can get back to working on faster things. It's just a cycle we're going to have to work through at intervals until we get things refined.

One great thing is he's actually stopping well now. I have spent the last few months really focusing on that, and it shows. He's even slammed a few stops from the lope lately. Like, tucked his butt and planted into a stop. So that is a good thing. Now we just need to work on creating more consistency for things between 'stop hard now' and 'keep cantering forever and ever.'

It looks like it's going to be the year of the canter. Cantering is Zoey's major Achilles heel as well. The main problem is she is quite small, naturally a bit unbalanced at the canter (even without a rider), and Brian is a little heavier on her than is ideal. They've been working on building up her confidence going for short spurts, but it is a lot of work for her. I plan to get back to riding her quite soon, and cantering is going to be my big focus. I'm enough lighter than Brian that she seems to have a much easier time packing me around.

Fortunately, even after challenging rides, she shows more and more of an inclination to be with us. Also, her balance is improving. Our farrier has been working on helping her build strength in her left front by trimming that foot so it's less crooked. He commented when he was out last week that she's moving more evenly now.

After our ride today, I realized I have now ridden more this January than any other January since I started keeping track. In 2011, I only rode for half an hour in January. Half an hour!

I guess it just illustrates how much our life has shifted horsewise in the last few years. Here is a chart that shows every ride I've logged since I started keeping track:

Ride Time: 1:15
Horseback Hours YTD: 6:20

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