A weekend of rides!

4 Dec

I managed to get in two rides this past weekend, and it was wonderful!

On Saturday I was really excited to see what I could do as a result of reading that Parelli article that I posted about (https://pacesandtails.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/fantastic-article/). I didn’t really know what to expect since I’d never tried anything like this, so I broke it down and focussed on bits and pieces. Basically, what I wanted to focus on was a) to only use one rein for control, and b) keeping myself balanced in the saddle so that when I used one rein for control, that I wouldn’t flop off or confuse Corona, and c) take Corona out of his comfort zone and use the one rein for control technique as well as the approach and retreat technique when he got spooky.

We started out the session on the track – the temperature was -15 degrees with the windchill. It was not pleasant. After a lap of walking, we picked up the trot to keep ourselves warm and after a lap or two the weather was no issue. I had switched to my winter riding boots which have a thicker sole than my regulars so it took a bit of getting used to, and I had also forgotten to put on my spurs, but oh well, more leg to keep me warm.

There’s one spot on the track that Corona and all the horses hate on a fairly consistent basis. We can’t seem to figure out why, but I believe are a couple of squirrels who live around there so there’s often rustling in the bushes, often the electric fence clicks in that area too which adds to it. When riding past there, it’s a safe bet that Corona will speed up 50% of the time, will full on spook about 15% of the time, and then in typical horse fashion, will act like there’s nothing there the remaining 35% of the time. He most often does all three of these within single session. Sure enough, it was in this area of the track that I first applied the one rein for control experiment. We rounded the corner to “the spot” and Corona’s head shot up in the air and he started to get quicker, I sat back and gently brought the outside (left) rein to my hip and slackened the inside (right) rein, which turned Corona in a small circle to the left (outside). We did about 3 circles and then carried on straight down the track. We went through this process in both directions at various spots on the track. Now, whether this is right or not, I have no idea, but I noticed that after a couple of these circles, Corona was anticipating them anytime I picked up the rein so I didn’t have to bring the rein as far to my hip as I had at the beginning. Very clever fellow.

I also found myself repeating “lateral flexion is the key to vertical flexion” in my head – it was like my mantra throughout this exercise. It all started to make sense – when a horse gets spooky or excited, their head goes up and they no longer carry themselves with their poll at or below their withers. When their head goes up, adrenaline goes up, they get into flight mode. What you want is for your horse to maintain a more relaxed head carriage so that they do not instinctively go into this flight pattern. When you flex the horse laterally, they “unlock” from that vertical flight mode and avoid getting into the mindset where they can only react. They then have a lower head carriage (vertically) which keeps them in “thinking” mode.

In addition to “the spot”, Corona also doesn’t favour being ridden in the back field which is at the top end of the track. The ground is a bit uneven, it’s bordered by a forest at the furthest end, a corn field to the right and a soy bean field to the left. There’s also an old burn pile in the middle of the field with some tree stumps and long grasses that blow in the wind. Since we were doing so well on the track, I thought this would be a great opportunity to take us out of comfort zone and venture into the back field. I began with some approach and retreat up the long side of the track (right where “the spot” is no less!), then we went up about 30 feet into the back field and did some more. I did lots of changes of direction and kept my reins quite relaxed and really focused on only using ONE rein for control anytime there was a change of energy from Corona. It was phenomenal – this horse was alert, but was listening to me. I wouldn’t say he was absolutely confident in being in the field, but he was confident enough to do what I was asking without fussing. We did all sorts of circles, figure eights, loops around the old burn pile, any sort of pattern that involved changing direction. There was one spook where Corona took off but used the one rein technique and he calmed right down immediately.

I was having a great ride, and it seemed as if Corona was really enjoying himself as well. I love the feeling when you find you horse as enthusiastic about things as you are. He got a lot of praise and rubs as we cooled out with 2 laps walking on a long rein around the track. After the ride, I put on his new blanket (which looks amazing btw) and turned him out with his buddies.

Sunday came with freezing rain in the morning, turning into full on rain in the late morning and the rest of the day. Needless to say the temperature had jumped by about 20 degrees from the day before and this meant the new winter blanket came off again. My friend was riding Sunday as well, but since her horse is getting over a cold, we decided to take it easy and just go for a nice leisurely stroll with the horses. Both horses were great; even though we didn’t really do much, it was nice to be on the horses and just relax with them. I think they appreciate the change of pace and just being out and about the property. I took the opportunity to focus on my leg position and keeping my heels down. We lasted about 30 mins in the rain before we called it a day. On went the rainsheets again and ample treats were fed to two very handsome slobbery mouths.

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