Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Perfect 2.0 (& a little snow)

Last night brought the first nice little dusting of snow in the foothills and with the snow came two very adorable, very well behaved mares. 
Their synchronized ears crack me up
When I got to the barn there was just enough snow to make the pastures and trees look pretty, but not enough to screw with the roads or freeze the footing.  Of course this also meant that the primordial ooze that is the muck at the girls' pasture gate also wasn't frozen. 

Trying to maintain footing on the (vanishing) firmer mud while wrestling with the gate and wrestling one mare out while keeping one mare in is getting harder and harder as the muck deepens.. but I suppose horses are supposed to be a challenge and if the challenge has to come somewhere I'd rather it be in the muddy paddock gate than under saddle. :)

I pulled Prairie in first and tacked up for our lesson.  A couple weeks ago S set up a cavaletti at X so we could figure eight over it, or just incorporate it into our circle.  Prairie had an absolute conniption fit about cantering over it and we had to all but abandon anything resembling the exercise before we found Prairie's comfort zone (trotting a plain pole on the rail).

S had apparently had Prairie cantering figure eights over the cavaletti with clean changes last week.  Eager to see what would happen if I attempted such a feat we warmed up and got to business. 

In summary - Prairie was a stud.  When I focused on "squaring" our corners as we turned toward the cavaletti and keeping her straight for a stride before and after.  This is easier said than done, but it helps keep me riding the mare from back to front - and anything that does that is good in my book. 

After cantering on circles over the cavaletti (something that fried Prairie's Brain 3 weeks ago..) we started with the figure eights and whenever I had her packaged, straight and balanced, she nailed her changes.  If we got strung out, inverted or came in with too much bend, we were moderately screwed. 

I really couldn't believe how well she was doing though.  She only missed the clean change once with her hind legs, and there was no trace of the lead-change-induced-anxiety that I've witnessed before.

We upped the ante a bit and moved the cavaletti to the diagonal approaching H so I would canter the diagonal, and then hopefully use the cavaletti to assist with the change as we rejoined the rail. 

This was too much time to think about the lead change for Prairie and she ended up trying to swap and getting all fussy as she crossed the center line when she was still a good 4 strides out from the cavaletti and change in bend. 

We worked through it, and I realized that I needed to maintain our old bend on the diagonal so that Prairie didn't over think the change too soon.  If I held her too straight, the diagonal was just too much time to stare at the cavaletti and get concerned about what to do with her legs. 

We got a few good changes from the left to the right, worked a few from the right to the left and then called it quits before the gerbils exploded.  I was really pleased with the mare.  I felt like she gave me really good, honest tries and stuck with me longer than she ever has with hard questions like this. 

Pia was next.  She was a little squirrely when I first brought her in (mostly over concern to where Prairie disappeared to I think), but she calmed down in the cross ties and was a super quiet, patient girl while I hosed off her muddy legs and tacked her up.  I've been riding her in my old Klimke dressage saddle with a sheepskin half pad under it.  Nothing else.  But she seems really happy in that combo.  We've also started working with her in her bit (!!!) so I tacked up with her old KK double jointed loose ring (without a noseband) and got on. 

The first 30 seconds gave me slight PTSD because P felt firey.  But, a quick nudge forward and some big circles calmed her down in 2 minutes flat.  S left the cavaletti out at X and we basically repeated Prairie's lesson but without any steady rein contact (or rhythm for that matter).  But P was great! we walked small figure eights.  Trotted small figure eights, trotted over the cavaletti on a circle, cantered over it on a circle and then played with figure eights. 

I did throw an old stirrup leather around Pia's neck as an "oh shit strap" which I really liked.  I hooked my outside hand into it and let that be my safety blanket.  I could lean/haul/pull on that thing as much as I wanted without disrupting Pia or shutting her down with too much rein contact. 

The mare actually seemed pretty tuned in to her neck rein and between that and my seat I was able to leave a biiiiiig loop in our reins the whole time.  The only time I really needed to fuss with my hands was to give her an opening rein over the cavaletti for rein changes.

Afterward we went for a big property walk and she was calm, forward and super relaxed. 

WHAT A GOOD PIA.  Full marks.  Brav. 

Look at that happy mare face! (ignore the slipping pad) 
 Things I'm learning about Me and P(1):
  • I am still totally reluctant to put my leg on her.  I'm expecting her to be naughty, but she isn't reacting that way.  I need to ride the mare I have, not the mare she was in 2010/2011.  
  • She feels like a pony! I've taking Prarie's size for granted and gotten sloppy with my upper body balance.  I need to stay back on Pia and not tip forward.
  • She's trustworthy.  (with some things).  Horses, backfiring, 4x4's, nothing seems to spook her when she's working.  I need to trust her more on that.
  • She's totally ok without rein contact so I need to be ok with that for a little while too - until I earn her trust and can ask for a bit more confinement. 
  • P is really enjoying her work.  This might be my favorite thing right now.  I want to make sure I don't do anything to jeopardize that relaxation.
So it was a great mare day.  They earned a perfect 2.0 GPA and I can't ask for more than that. They must be giving me my Christmas gifts early... 


  1. Awesome!! What a great report on P1. You cantered and didn't die! Such a huge switch. :)

  2. Yay!! Sounds like Pia's settling in to her new routine well. Do you think the trip back up to summer camp helped with this, or had no effect? Certainly doesn't appear to have hurt!


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