Winston and I have been busy getting reacquainted. I've ridden him four days in row. Four days! In a row!
Last Friday, we worked in the arena for about half an hour. We warmed up at walk on a long rein and then did some trot work. My focus was on him being in front of my leg (surging forward when I asked from a light squeeze) and steady in his rhythm and contact. He was good as gold and happy to be working.
Saturday, Brett and Flash worked in the arena at the same time as us. Winston was pretty good but a bit distracted by Flash. He would speed up when we were behind Flash, trying to catch up, and he would slow down when we were in front. No, no, Winston. Your tempo needs to stay consistent and you need to pay attention to me and not the other kids on the playground. I had to work harder, riding every step, returning his focus to me when he drifted. At the end of our time in the arena, we worked a bit on canter and he was lovely; obedient and round.
|Favorite Game: knock the stuff off the stump and watch me put it back. Repeat.|
Sunday, we went on a trail ride. Winston and I haven't been out on the loop trail since April, before I broke my toes. When we started out, Winston spooked at some dogs that were running their fence line. These were the neighbors' dogs and they always run the fence line and bark. Winston really shouldn't have minded. Then twice, on the way to the trail, he stopped and refused to go forward on the community bridle path. Both times, he was staring hard at... other horses... safe in their paddocks... calmly staring back at us. Again, silly-no-excuse baby testing antics. Once we were on the trail, Winston relaxed and marched on a long rein. I love his walk; big strided and swinging. I kept the barest amount of contact on his mouth. Think about how a small child will hold onto your pinky finger when they are walking and feeling brave but still want to be connected to you, just in case. That's the feel that I had with Winston. When we went down small ravines and he wanted to rush, I braced a nano second with my back and he slowed. We hopped over some logs just for fun. My toes started aching about halfway through but I toughed it out. They will hurt for a year, I'm told by the doctor, so I'm just going to have to suck it up and deal with it. On the way back, we were on a narrow, steep, rocky part of the trail with high dense chaparral on either side. A mountain bike came careening down the trail towards us, appearing out of nowhere, around a bend, silently sprinting down the hill. We were in front of Flash so there was no buffer. Winston did a plant, dip, and scurry sideways up the hill into the sage brush. Justified. The bike rider stopped, apologized and chatted with us for a few minutes. Winston sniffed his handlebars and thought about biting the tires. When we got back home, I unsaddled Winston and rinsed him off before turning him out in the pasture and hobbling up to the house.
This morning, we did more work in the arena. We were both tired so we only worked 20 minutes or so, mostly at walk. We worked on quiet hands and quiet seat. I kept the contact steady but giving. I rested my legs against his sides with just enough tension to keep them from flopping. I steered with my legs, I gave tiny pushes with my calves and he responded by surging forward. We worked on going from a free walk to a working walk and back again. Winston tends to throw his head up in the air when I take up the contact so we worked on me being smooth and quiet while I gather him up, and him keeping the tempo and accepting the contact. Good work.
Tomorrow we will rest from riding.