Thursday, February 2, 2012

CAN - ter.

So out at the barn last night, yet again. That's 3 days in a row for us, and I can tell that Moon is getting muscle sore and tired. My plan was to put another ride on him tonight, but I honestly don't feel like that's very fair. Instead, I'm thinking I'll lay out some trail-class patterns and work him through that. Since they're not a ton of trotting/cantering, he should feel good but still get his exercise. There's a great website with some printable patterns (including showmanship) here:

We haven't a bridge or a gate, but I think I'll bring a tarp for a bridge and leave out the gate. Don't have a mailbox either...

I also have some stretches in one of the books I purchased and thought I'd try them out on Moon. A sore horse deserves a little spoiling...

Now on to yesterday.

I got to the barn a little later then normal, but there were others there which is strange. I spent awhile braiding Moon's mane in a running braid, to see how it would look for competition. Manes are so important for keeping rain and snow off their necks, as well as protecting them from flies and mosquitoes in the summer. He is, first and foremost, an outdoor pony and if I can keep his mane on him, I will.

My final result was less then stellar. As you can see, when he raised his head it went wobbly over the top. Based on his expression, he's finds it a little scarey : P I left it in overnight, and hope he doesn't decide to rub his mane off today : P
While I was working away on this, one of W's working students and I got to talking about showing this summer, since W had posted the show dates on her white board. At one point, he rather bluntly asked me why I want to compete this summer. To be in front of all those people being judged and watched. Isn't that nerve-wracking? Why would you want to do that?

Because I don't care about the competition. Oh sure, being watched makes me nervous and it's intimidating to have judges marking your performance. But it's so much more. It's a chance to take a year of solid riding and training, of a 13 year old quarter horse who spent a lot of years as a pasture puff, and see what it has amounted to. See what WE have amounted to.

Ribbons? Sure, they're pretty. High scores? They're grand. But just the thought of BEING there in the ring with others? Incredible. This is a measurement of our hardwork. A measurement of our relationship, a new challenge, a test. Who wouldn't want that?!

I'm pleased to see during this canter, that I'm sitting nice and tall with my legs underneath me.

I'm not sure I convinced him, but I sure felt excited about this summer. Maybe a few more folks from the barn will join in, maybe not. We'll only have to wait and see. But for us, we had some work to do.

Out in the arena we warmed up. He was slow again, a testament to being tired from all the hardwork. But his transitions were smooth and he worked well at bending and having contact. Then came the canter work.

I admit, he gets excited. I wind up with a horse that starts to fight bend and contact more after I've asked him to canter. But instead of getting frustrated, I reminded myself that his trot was once a messy thing too, and it was simply a matter of time and experience to make it what it is now. So I'll just keep asking and waiting patiently.

We spiraled out of our circle and cantered off.

I'd say 70% of the time we had a depart on the correct lead. 50% of those times I was able to bring him back to a trot BEFORE he fell out of it. I still need to gain a feel for when he needs to be pushed into carrying on at the canter and when I should bring him back to a trot. This is again, a time thing.

Did someone say "Can't-er"? Nope. "Can-ter!" And look! I'm not lying on his neck!
While we didn't do complete circles, I did start to feel like his transitions are smoothing out. Before I'd get lots of bucks and sassy-ness, while now he doesn't seem to explode quite so much into them. Granted, we're having some discussion about whether he needs to listen to my aid or not. I'm feeling like I'm going to have to bring my crop with me next week after he's recovered to see if I can get a faster response. The first handful of times he'd strike off as soon as I moved my leg back, but at the end, I'd ask 4 times before he'd depart, which isn't acceptable. I'm hoping it's just because he's tired and the weekend off will get his mojo back.

Going right he's really showing improvement, while going left he's resistant. Worse, while his bend is improving in this direction at a trot, canter just makes him fight bending altogether. It ends up being "Ask, ask, ask, canter stride, canter stride, fall to trot, throw head in air, fight bend, jerk at reins, throw bum out of circle..."


Yesterday at one point I thought "Maybe I can just ride him in one direction only? Do dressage tests even make you circle both ways??": P

As someone who a month ago thought he couldn't canter at all, I'm going to ignore my own advice for now! He'll get there.

As for me, I'm trying to be more conscious about my legs, keeping them in contact with Moon while riding, but not constantly nagging with my aids. Ask, respond, release. It's hard. Especially with a tired pony. But I just keep reminding myself and hopefully make progress. You can see, my legs finally look a lot more even (not perfect yet), though I need my toes in. My upper body does look tall and straight though. : ) And my elbows could come in a touch, though the right is doing an opening rein.

No crossing over in this fieble leg-yield. But my legs are little more even.
This was the first time I caught our leg yield on video, and I can really see when playing it just how much timing comes into play. When I ask at the wrong times, he doesn't really do anything. Much like the picture above. But when I get the right rhythm...
The slightest crossing at a trot. And yes, it was so warm I was riding without a jacket. That or Moon was making me work too hard...

Some more good timing, and we get even more crossing with the hinds...
There was a lot less crossing with the front end, but it's coming along. I also need to get him straighter through the body then this, but since it was in the last 20 minutes of our ride, I'm pleased he's even listening to me : P I have to admit, it's nice to see better form in these pictures. Over the whole 20 minutes of video, my chair legs showed up only when I seemed to get tired or Moon and I got out of sync.

So here's Mr. Moon, post-ride. Showing off his fancy tack. Boy, does he need to work off that belly. But he still seems happy and alert. I can really start to see that he's got a very long back.

And look how big and quarter horse-y he looks! All decked out in his show gear (well, wrong pad, but still)  : ) How can you NOT fall in love with him!!! : )


  1. You and Moon are looking good, and you’re leg position looks way better than when I last saw it, nice work. I like Moons running plait, plaiting is not my strong point and I’ve never done a running plait.

    Anyway good luck with your canter work I am sure you two will get it just as good as the trot, practice makes perfect.

  2. You and Moon look great! I'm so glad to hear about all the progress you two are making and I can't wait to hear about your shows! :)