Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Back to Basics (again)

Coming off the weekend at Summer Camp, I feel like I've got a nice little jolt of momentum with Prairie.  We didn't tackle crazy stuff, or make gigantic strides, but we did improve on everything we did and it was a great change of perspective and approach for me.

I gave the mare Monday off since I always like to let them have a relaxing day after a show/field trip/etc, even if all she did was make new friends and eat snacks all weekend (by that rationale I shouldn't really ever work on Mondays either..)

But Tuesday.  Tuesday was back to work.  We have a show on Saturday, which I've nearly forgotten about and  it's a small one, but it's someplace new and in theory we do actually need to ride First Level Test 2... For the record the last time I specifically practiced lengthening P2's canter was probably our last dressage show in August.  Not exactly inspiring.

Expecting the worst I threw the Dressage tack on (including our happy KK D Ring) and headed for the ring.  I clipped on a lunge line and worked some of our leading exercises at a distance and Prairie was totally dialed in.  I even played around with some lateral yields on the ground and Prairie (although confused) picked it up pretty quickly.  We were "leg yielding" down the long side in no time.

I opted to stop pressing my luck on the ground so I hopped on and went to work.  Prair was suuuuuper relaxed.  I played with some shoulder-ins at the walk to see how loose we were then popped up into a trot.

Best. Trot. In Months.  (hands down).

Prairie was loose, swinging, and actually felt somewhat engaged in her hind end.  I shortened my reins, added some leg and asked her to step up a bit more.

She did.  And she stayed light in the hand and really, quite balanced.

Okaaaaaaaaay. I thought.  This is nice... especially for no "real" rides in a while....  (and I waited for the other shoe to drop).

When it didn't, I decided that since it felt like I had a real dressage horse, maybe I should ride like a real dressage-horse-rider.  So I wrapped my legs around her (more than I usually do) and worked on some teeny figure eights really emphasizing the bend.

Miraculously, when I offered lots of leg support, Prairie stayed soft, uphill and balanced on her circles.  our change of bend was just one little halfhalt on the outside rein, switch the legs and pressssssssss her into the new direction.. Magical.

Then, transitions.  Light, prompt, balanced.  (even some downward ones!).  Then some increase/decrease at the trot.  BAM.  Increase/Decrease at the canter? Double BAM.

She was 100% right with me.  Damn me for not having a camera to capture the magic. 

I let her stretch down, doodled a few more circled in a stretchy trot and then headed out to walk the property.

This morning, I decided since the barn was EMPTY (though I swear there are multiple trainers in theory working at this place..) I stole the indoor, made up some dishes of snack and took Prairie to do some liberty/join up work.

At first, she was totally blowing me off and just bulldozing for the buckets of snack.  But, I only had to chase her off a few times for her to realize that I was controller-of-the-smacks and she started to tune in a bit. 

Mind you, I hadn't really counted on the fact that I was attempting my little arena session just as horses were getting turned out for the day... which meant that there were plenty of distractions.

In point of fact, that made Prairie's focus on me all the more meaningful.

She joined up quickly and followed me from bowl to bowl, pausing to soften and wait for me to say "head down" before shoving her face full of goodies.  She was a little sticky on the "head up" request, but we sharpened it up.

Eventually we were able to yield haunches, leg yield, turn toward me, turn away and walk/trot/halt all at liberty and at about 6' of separation.

I got some really weird looks from our barn guys, but I just kept running and clucking and waving my arms like a lunatic.  (I think it's working)

Then I tacked up and went to "real work."  Again, Prairie was super soft and forward.  Even with a semi-truck unloading pallets of pellets (say that three times fast) just outside the arena fence.  I focused on my whole leg-wrapping thing again, and had P2 focus on staying light on the forehand.  Funny how to two seem to go hand in hand.

We worked FL2 all the way through once - and aside from some awkward moments in our leg yield, it was some of our better work.  The whole ride just felt like success, after success, after success.

Perfect way to start the morning.

As a final reward for being such a good and focused girl, I introduced Prairie to a new friend Sadie, and turned her out in a bigger, better paddock that she can share with the sweet old QH mare.  In theory P1 will join them in there for a mini herd of three when she arrives. 
P2 was on a mission to sniff every manure pile in that paddock...
I'm feeling better about the potential show on Saturday.  I only signed up for two rides.  The first is a "training level test" but isn't an official USEF test as it will also include three 2' jumps interspersed with the WTC work.  The second ride is plain 'ol FL2.

We also haven't jumped since our little hunter show... maybe we should revisit that a bit as well before we go blazing off into the mountains...


  1. The pallet with the pellets has the brew that is true!

    I'm so curious to know more about Cowboy Man -- sounds like he's made a huge difference for you and your lovely mares.

  2. Aww, how awesome from you and P2. Now I am really excited for your show this weekend, just a little bit of ground work can fix her issues?!? Good luck!

  3. Love those perfect rides - heaven!

  4. This post makes me so happy!!! Prairie is awesome and you both are doing so great! :D


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