Monday, January 31, 2011

Arena Update

My confidence riding Cole in the arena has skyrocketed. We are typically riding 5 days a week. I will ride all over the arena unless he is being a handful or there is a lot of commotion from other horses who are also being ridden at the same time.

I learned that I don’t need to lounge on mild days. Mild means about 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the indoor arena. If it is down to 25 degrees, lounging is advised. And if the outdoor temperature is below zero, I can’t even plan to ride and I have to lounge very, very carefully since a Mustang straight off the range would probably be quieter. Let’s hope we don’t get any more days that are that cold this winter.

I know that what Cole needs is to be turned out to run and run and run. Unfortunately, the footing in our outdoor arena is not suited for that right now. There is a lot of ice, and it is frozen with many divots. I just don’t want to take the chance. We are no longer allowed to turn out in the indoor arena due to where the hay is currently being stored. He never did much in there, anyway. After about a minute, he would find hay scraps to eat; so much for getting his bucks out. Cole really likes to eat.

He is hardly spooking in the indoor arena, now. In fact, Cruiser is spooking more than Cole! Ellen prefers to ride Ranger with Cole because, not only is Cole less disruptive than Cruiser, but he’s less of a distraction. Cruiser and Ranger like to make faces at one another. They are also attracted to each other like magnets. Wherever one is, the other would like to be, too. We don’t have this problem with Cole and Ranger.

We have been doing lots of circles, trotting and transitions, and he is doing them well. His bends are terrific. He overdoes his downward transitions from the trot—he halts instead of walks. We have to work on that. He doesn’t get distracted even half as much as Cruiser. That makes so many things so much easier.

I have been using clicker to tell him whenever he is doing something great. One day, he started to give me a very powerful and big trot. It was awesome, so I started clicking him for it. He did it over and over. I decided to quit before he got sore. I was too late. The next day I rode him, he fought moving forward in such an adamant manner, that I was sure he was hurting. I gave him a day off, and he was fine the next ride. Now I know how powerful the clicker can be, and that I am responsible for keeping him from pushing himself too hard for a piece of carrot. Now, I click him before he gets to that point—when he is rounding up and stretching down.

Sometimes, when I ask him to trot, he stops. This is something we are working on, too. It is usually after I have ridden him about a half hour, and he is telling me he wants to quit. In the old days if a horse did this, I would have given him a big kick and smacked him with the whip, but I am doing something different, now. He tends to jump forward when I give any strong forward commands, so I am doing things in a kinder and gentler manner. When he does it, I squeeze my legs and hold. If he doesn’t respond, I keep squeezing and add a continuous light tapping with the whip. Once he takes a step forward, I cease. I then ask him to trot. If he stops again, and sometimes he does, I repeat it all. Most of the time, he will trot. He has been doing this less, so I think it is working.

The other problem that I have had is him being attracted to the corner that all the other horses in the barn is afraid of. He has successfully taken off running towards it when I really want to go in a circle instead of down the wall. I think he found it is fun to go there, and it gives him a break from work.

I have increased the times I walk and trot through that corner without stopping. When I was intimidated by the far end of the arena, I stopped there often to breathe—another reason he may like it there. I am also concentrating on my circles to keep him from going to the corner when I don’t want him to. In that direction, my outside seat bone tends to float off the saddle. If it does, he will veer out of the circle or even go straight out if he wants to go to the corner. If I hold my seat bone where it belongs, he will bend on the circle and not even look down the wall. It is amazing that a horse so green would be so tuned in to what I do. It goes to show me how important my riding is not only to his performance, but to his behavior.

I am learning a lot with him in the arena, and time goes quickly. Still, I really want to go down trail. With everything I have been doing with him this winter, he will be well prepared for the trail—unlike last fall when I was riding him out there. He knew so little, it still amazes me that he was so behaved. Now, he will be great—at least once we get past the springtime silliness.


achieve1dream said...

I never really thought of them overdoing it in the sheer excitement of earning a click (of course I also haven't gotten to the stage where I'm using clicker for more than a walk lol). I'm glad you stopped when you did and that he was fine after a day off. Reading this is making me so impatient to start riding Chrome and incorporating clicker into our riding. Only one year and three and a half months to go! :D

I think green horses are more in tune to our body position because they haven't been desensitized by poor riding! It is definitely motivation to be aware of your position. That's one reason I want to start taking lessons again before I start Chrome because it's been so long since I've ridden that I've probably forgotten everything!

I'm glad he's doing so well for you. He sounds like such a doll!

achieve1dream said...

Hehehe I thought it was a great excuse! LOL Especially considering Monday it was sixty degrees. :) Last night it was in the teens. Ugh. I'll get back to his training asap.