Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cruiser's training

I have been feeling so down about Mingo that I can barely write. Silly me. I know from long experience that writing improves my mood—big-time. Yet when I get down, I can barely do it. I decided to force myself to write—and about something good—Cruiser.

Cruiser had his share of health problems with his bowed tendon and the insulin resistance that caused it, but he has been going strong, now for almost 2 years.

Nine months out of the year, I am riding him on the trail. In the winter, we are forced to work in the arena—actually get serious about what we are doing. I get sloppy with my riding over the summer, so I spend a lot of time trying to get my riding back into shape. It is amazing how when I want to circle to the left, my body tries to tell him to circle to the right, instead. Riding well in the arena takes so much concentration. It can be mentally exhausting, at times. When I get it right, Cruiser will reward me.

He has finally started to settle down and pay attention. I have decided that our main focus of the month is to get him perfect on transitions—and try to lighten my cues as much as possible. On trail, I tend to just use vocal commands for my upward trans—he is such an enthusiastic trail horse, that that is all I need. In the arena, he thinks vocal commands are optional. He is now going from a halt to a walk with the slightest of pressure. I’m really proud of that. He has never been so good in his 22 years of sporadic ring work. After some practice, he gets light with the trot transitions, too. Canter transitions have never been a problem, but when we get real good with the trot transitions, we will practice the canter ones, too, for good measure.

Downward trans in the arena have always been very easy for Cruiser. All I need to do is sit still and exhale. That doesn’t help me when I’m out on trail and he gets into a hyper situation. I then need to cue him with the reins—and he doesn’t consistently listen to them. I decided to work on our downward trans with the reins in the arena instead of the exhale. It surprised me to find that he was ignoring the reins in the beginning in the arena, too. I guess he really did need a refresher course on basic downward transitions. He is now listening to the reins 95 percent of the time.

Currently, he is traveling nicely on the bit most of the time and in a round frame. Sometimes he gets a little slow in the hindquarters, so I decided he is finally going to learn to speed up on command. I have never been successful with inter-gait transitions, but I think it is because I never tried hard enough. That is my new project this week. (I couldn’t start this one until he settled down.) When he slows down the hindquarters, I squeeze lightly and hold until he responds. It is working, though he doesn’t keep up the speed for that long. I figure if I am consistent and correct him each time that he starts to move soggy, he will get better and better. I’m just glad he is responding at all. This really is a first. I’m sure it is all the regular trans that I have been doing that has helped my inter-gait trans.

We’ve got about 2 more months at the most that we will be working primarily in the arena. I am looking forward to the trail, but this year, I am confident that we will not be wasting our time in the arena.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Good job. Sounds like you both are progressing well. :)