Thursday, June 2, 2011

What'ya mean, "Next Step?"

Yesterday was lesson day. Unfortunately T wasn't able to join me, which meant my maiden voyage out to Coach W's, alone. I'm not sure why, other then the fact I'm a nervous wing-nut, but whenever I drive away with Moon'er in the trailer, after checking the door is latched at least 4 times and knowing he's strapped in with the trailer tie, I OBSESS about the door opening, him falling out the back and being dragged the 12 kilometres down the highway. It sounds AWFUL, the thought is AWFUL, yet it's there, every time we travel somewhere. And I worry, clenching the steering wheel the whole way, looking out my side mirrors for any signs of trailing horse.

REALLY, I have issues. Chances are, even if the door by some horror opened, there's NO way Moon would fall out. He'd be planted firmly at the front, and probably beat me one when we finally stopped. *sigh* I'm sure with enough time, we'll get over my irrational fear.

So I made it to the barn, got him shiny and loaded him up. At Coach W's, we found he was a bit of a brat. A little more worked up then normal, likely due to my stress levels. After unloading, I wasn't comfortable tying him to the trailer, so I tried to hold him, while tacking him up. Of course he was dancing all over the place, the saddle slipped while I was trying to get the 'tiny' girth on, and to make things worse, he stepped on the girth, meaning I couldn't pull the saddle back without moving him forward. Being Moon, when I moved him forward, he stepped on the girth with his back leg instead, and had enough force to pull it right out of my hand. *sigh*

"Crash" went my saddle to the ground, Mr. Moon went "AURGH! Evil saddle!" and danced away. Which obviously meant he STEPPED on my saddle, half kicking it and no surprise, dragging it across the gravel driveway. *sigh*

Irritated, I thought "to heck with this" and just tied him to the trailer. And what would you expect, other then him standing still. Ger.

So I got him tacked properly, disappointed to see the marks made in my saddle from our little 'escapade'. And the gravel the was ground into the pommel. *sigh*

We get our crap sorted out, me of course wondering if Coach or her family is watching my embarrassing antics from the house or barn. It's one thing to look like an idiot to yourself. It's another for others to see.

Once in the ring, he's back to Mr. Bratty. Coach W called him 'Passive Aggressive', which is the perfect descriptor. He'll never do anything dangerous. He doesn't kick or buck or bite or rear. But he will dance and evade and just be a brat. Sometimes I think it drives me MORE crazy! Especially when he's doing it at the mounting block. BREATHE.

Our actually ride was great. Despite our minimal practice, he was looking for contact, dropping his head and staying there. His transitions, especially upwards were awesome and some of his best. After showing off what we've achieved, W decided we'd now work with more outside rein, something he doesn't really understand.

She had me lift my reins and move them outward, without losing contact on the outside. It was weird, because he would almost move a bit sideways, and W said he was starting to learn to lift his shoulders and move out. A "new kind of balance". She called this "Step 2" in our program. Seriously? There's a "Next Step"? I haven't even mastered Step #1!!!

We worked and worked and worked on this, adding it into figure 8's. IT...IS...HARD. Suddenly when you're lifting to the outside to bring him onto the next circle, you ALSO have to recreate the bend in the opposite direction, push him out with your inside leg, steady him with your outside leg, not drop the outside rein, give a slight twist to your now inside hand, reposition your seat bones so the opposite one is slightly forward, NOT spread your hands, move them in sync, look where you're going, keep your chest up, not tip forward, post slowly and rhythmically, stay on a circle and maintain his lowered head carriage. And NO, I'm not even BOTHERING with posting diagonals!

NOT being a multi-tasker, I struggled. W is awesome for always encouraging and praising your small achievements, but I felt like a big dorky sack of potatoes flailing around up there. Add that Mr. Moon, being a bit bratty, kept doing GRAND head shakes, thereby flinging the reins from my hands, usually at the PIVOTAL moment when I was trying to navigate onto the next circle. Thus, I'd be reinless, and W would remind me to close my fingers and actually hold the reins. Right. Kinda forgot that while trying to remember the other 18 things.

We worked on it quite a bit, and while I get the concept, and to a good degree, what I need to do to achieve it, it was still too overwhelming and complicated for me to truly master. We had some good ones, but I know this is going to be a lot of practice and work to achieve. I know it was more me then Moon on this one!

She also had us try some leg yielding, which was also a bit of a mess. Moon seemed to think that if his head was bent left, he needed to move left. Over and over we tried at a walk, and without W's help from the ground, looked like two creatures moving in opposite directions. : P

Funny thing was, when we did one more trot figure 8 afterwards, he did some really nice leg yielding. : P Typical Moon.

Coach W said we had finally achieved what was called "Shoulder fore", the pre-decessor to shoulder in. We didn't get it all the time, but it was coming along, and for only 4 weeks, we were progressing nicely. Also when we worked on moving out the circle by lifting the reins, Moon started to lift his shoulder! He's figuring it out! He's getting new balance and new muscle! That's my boy!

Saying that, he also had a nice vocal outburst right near the end, kept dramatically shaking his head (Coach W says it's good, like stretching. I think he's just trying to point out that I'm not holding the reins properly!), and dancing all over the place. Sometimes I think after being Mr. Working Hard for an hour, he just loses it and wants to be free to move as he pleases. Can't blame him, right?

Finished up the lesson with some work on turn-on-the-fore. W suggested looking over my shoulder when I ask for it, because it realigns the body. Seemed to help in class, so we'll try it at home.

Also with his dancing, he suggested just waiting it out. Turn his head, and wait until he decides to settle. Okay. It's a patience game and I'm gonna play it.

When the lesson finally came to a close, we were both sweating. Moon was soaked in his chest, belly, neck and EVEN ears. : ) Can't say I was much better and I was yet again sore and felt well worked. I love it.

Back home he wanted nothing to do with me, promptly marching away from the tie rail. lol. Oh well, he gets the next week off to get over being Mr. Crankipants.

On a different topic, when I was grooming him (and children, cover your eyes), I noticed that while he doesn't really have a lot of bug bites over his body, he DOES seem to have a bunch around his 'manly bits'. To the point where there's little bloody scabs all over, even on the inside of his back legs. My thought, is that without the protective hair in these areas, it's just more susceptible. I tried to give the area a bit of a brushing to remove any bugs still hanging out, and then sprayed the area with some bug repellent. I'm hoping it at least makes him more comfortable. We're likely getting to the time of year when he'll need a fly sheet and his fly mask. Whatever makes him comfortable.

Last topic change. Showing.

I wanted to try taking Moon to a show. Just one this year. Not to try and win ribbons, but for the experience. That was before we got into this intensive training program, where I don't even feel capable of trotting half the time, never mind cantering. Which is required for most classes (english anyway). So I decided we'd forgo that for this year, and aim for one next year.

...until I noticed some local small town shows in the area. $3 a class, some with a $10 secretary fee. They sounds pretty low key and there's no need for expensive supplementary memberships and the like. BUT, reading over them, I'm not sure we'll be ready. Really, I think we could try: Trail, English Equitation or English Showmanship. But they all require some canter. The closest one is July 1st, the latest is at the end of August. The one in August is 2.5 hours away, so I'm not sure it's worth the long drive, just to 'play'.

I think I'm going to ponder it over the next two weeks while I'm away, and then broach the subject to Coach W, for her expert opinion. Hmmmm....guess I haven't given up on it yet. : P

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