Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trail Training Newsletter #120 - Three Weeks Later

Three Weeks Later

Well, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been trotting full laps with ease. In fact, I haven’t been trotting full laps at all. There always seems to be something that stops me from doing that. What I have been doing is walking full laps, trotting laps that are three quarters of the arena and trotting circles on the scary end.

One of the reasons that put me off doing the full laps is a little weird. It seems Cole is obsessed with going over to that end. Once, he tried to bolt to get there! He tries to drift that way, and if we do trot over in that direction, I have trouble stopping him! I’m not sure what this is all about, but at least he isn’t afraid! He is just being a little unpredictable about it.

I had 6 days in a row to work in the arena over the Christmas holiday. The first day, I lounged him first and he was a lunatic. Once he settled down, I decided to ride, anyway, and we had a really nice ride. He didn’t spook a single time, which was a miracle. Well, he didn’t spook for 5 of the 6 days, so my confidence has skyrocketed.

Another reason that I haven’t trotted full laps is that we have been working on a new lesson—riding with other horses. I even rode him with a horse and mule at the same time, one day. We even trotted! He will tend to veer in the direction of his companions, but that is the worst of it. Before my long weekend, he was spooking so much that I didn’t want to ride with anyone else. I worry about him startling the other horses and causing a wreck. I think I worry too much.

We even trotted circles with other horses. We even worked when a horse was being lounged on the other end—something I really struggle with when I ride Cruiser to this day.

We made great strides.

By starting him out mostly on the trail, I managed to teach him about following my weight cues—and I didn’t even know it. I am pleased to say that Cole understands turning with a shift of the seat bone. I gently support it with my outside leg, but as long as he is in a cooperative mood, the reins are already becoming irrelevant.

This is making me a better rider—fast. Every winter, when I start riding in the indoor arena, again, I struggle with my left seat bone floating away—and sometimes just not listening to me. This doesn’t work with Cole—I have to keep things exact or he does things I don’t expect. He may be doing them, not because he isn’t listening, but because he is!

On my latest ride, for the first time, I decided to try a figure eight. This was brave, because one half of it would throw me on the scary end of the arena. I wasn’t afraid for long. I was amazed. His circles were round and nearly equal in size, and the change of direction in the middle was perfect and effortless—to the aforementioned seat bone shift. I thought I was dreaming. We did three in a row. Though the circles were small, which is easier, I didn’t expect those results. We did it again! I swear he seemed to enjoy it. I certainly did. There was a moment when I had a Twilight Zone feeling. Just what was I riding—couldn’t be a horse of mine. It shouldn’t have been so effortless and successful. It must have been beginner’s luck because I haven’t had such circles since, but he has been doing the change in direction perfectly. At least it gave me a sense of what is possible.

Oh, and he is so sensitive with his walk/trot transitions. If I over signal with my leg, particularly early in the ride, he will jump or even buck. I have to be oh so gentle. Often, I just use the word. We haven’t started cantering, yet. (Rome wasn’t built in a day—I am only starting to get brave.)

Years ago, I had a 1981 Camaro Z28. The engine was a 350 with a 4-barrel carburetor. If you didn’t touch the gas pedal very gently, it would jump forward and startle me. That is what riding Cole is like. The car also had a double kick down. The kick down is when the automatic transmission shifts down to give you an extra boost of energy. Most cars have one, but this car would do it twice. My dad found this out one day when he was driving it. I never had the nerve to try. I somehow think that Cole might have a double kick down, too, but right now, I am afraid to try. His sudden spooks have shown me he certainly has at least one kick down.

So, Cole has been a challenge in the arena, but I am growing in confidence and learning, and it has been a lot of fun.

I still can’t wait to get back on the trail…

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Wow those figure eights sound amazing! You probably are worrying too much (I do it too), but it is good to be cautious with horses. They are large animals. :) Try not to let it scare you though and remember that they feed off of our emotions (well some horses seem to). Keep up the great work!