Great Expectations

or “My Life in Blog Sounds Much Cooler Than It Really Is”

A good ride…

Posted by mandyhuckins on May 6, 2009

For those of you who are interested in reading about my riding life, here is a post for you (it has been a while).  For those of you that are more interested in my shopping/decorating posts, you can tune this one out. 

I have mentioned before that a very cute 15 year old rider at our stable has a red-dun quarter horse named Jack.  She rode western when she first purchased Jack, but she has decided that she is now interested in the challenge of dressage.  Obviously, these are two very, very different disciplines.  They have asked for my help in re-training Jack.  And, because I only have a little over a month left in Montgomery, we are under a time crunch.  So, I am supposed to be riding him at every possible opportunity.  Last week, I had some nice rides on him – at the walk and trot.  But, things fell apart whenever I tried to canter.   One night, he picked up the canter, but was so unbalanced – it was horrible.  Another night he had a total melt down the minute I would ask him for canter.  I took him to the round pen and had him canter in both directions several times, but he couldn’t maintain the canter for more than one circle around and he just looked off-balance and horrible.  After one canter attempt, when he came back down to trot, I noticed that he looked off.  I stopped him immediately and brought him out.  Sure enough, he was lame.  It looked to me like it was up in his stifle.  When I came to check him the next morning, he looked better – much less stiff.  So, I tried to get on him again that night.  I asked the barn owner, who was out in the ring giving a lesson, to watch him.  He was still short striding (taking a much shorter step) on his left hind leg than his right hind leg.  As luck would have it, the vet was already coming out the next day.  He looked at Jack and pronounced that he was sore in his heels and needed back shoes.  He also had us put him on some pain meds for a few days until the farrier could get there. 

I must admit, I was skeptical that this would solve our problem.  The farrier came on Monday and I put Jack on the lunge Monday night.  He has been known to exhibit bad behavior on the lunge, but that night, he was excellent.  He listened to my voice and walked, trotted and stopped on command.  He looked pretty good (maybe still a bit stiff on that left hind), so I didn’t want to overdo it.  Last night, I got back in the saddle.  He was great!  He didn’t have any meltdowns.  He sprung right into trot when asked.  He is staying down and round through his transition to trot (the down transition still needs work, but it is getting better too).  We even did a little shoulder-fore at the walk (this is when you ask the horse to bring this front half a little to the inside – it is helpful in getting the horse soft and round).  He did trip a few times when I first started….but, overall, he felt so good that I decided to go for broke and ask for canter.  I did have to chase him into it a little bit, but he stayed calm, did not freak out and toss his head up and we cantered nicely around a circle about three times before I asked him to come back to trot.  The barn owner said it was the best transition to canter she has seen him do.  That is sad…but, I was also very excited.  Poor boy!  His acting out was because he was in pain.  😦  I guess all of the work I have been asking him to do in really using his back end and carrying more of his weight back there was causing his heels to hit the ground more than (or harder than) usual and it was making him sore. 

I also had the chance to ride Dancer.  I have noticed that she has really been ignoring the aids when asked to trot.  So, my goal for yesterday was to sharpen that up.  She was definitely getting better by the end of the ride.  We also had several very nice transitions to and from canter.  And, I introduced a movement called Travers (pronounced like “tra-ver” rhymes with where).  Anyway, this is when you bring the horse’s hind end in.  They must remain bent in the direction of travel and cross their legs as they move down the rail.  (That is probably the worst description of all time!)  I am hoping that using this movement along the rail will help to develop my half-pass.  There are actually some different schools of thought about this – some people like to use Travers and other trainers think it shouldn’t be used because it is encouraging horses to be crooked.  I am of the “all things in moderation” mind – I think it should be fine as long as I don’t overdo it and mix it up with shoulder-in.  I want her to be more in tune with my change in seat bone position and I think that these types of movements will help.

All things considered, it was a nice night at the barn.

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