Friday, February 25, 2011

Lope Pattern and Open Arena

The pasture looked so pretty and peaceful when I arrived last night, no hoofprints behind ten feet of here:

I soon discovered why:

It appears the boys spent most of the day inside their shelters, and where even given dinner early, muching away as I arrived.

You have got to be kidding me, I am not going out there, Milo says.

But the halter around his head convinced him otherwise. This is Milo's very unimpressed look:

Aww C'mon Milo! The gate was closed up when I arrived, that means no one is here and we will have the whole arena to ourselves!

I'm not sure that did the trick, or the idea of going into the warm barn, but Milo perked right up and followed me up the long (and slippery) driveway.

And indeed, the arena was empty, the barn was deserted. Funny how a little snow can do that. Some days I really do love my little red F150...

I warmed up Milo a bit and we settled into some work. Mostly, I took advantage of the empty arena to work on the "serpentine" exercise at the lope that Sarah had told me about. In fact, after reading Equine Fitness - A Program of Exercises and Routines for Your Horse I discovered this same exercise being depicted in the book as well. If you dont remember, the exercise is to establish a nice lope (and OMG when I first got Milo into it, his head was dropped, his back was lifted, and he wasnt rocketing around the arena - needless to say it was a fabulous lope) then as you come along a long side, direct towards the inside a bit, then back to the rail, then back following the rail. So it should look something like this:

So yeah, please ignore my special drawing, and the fact that it says "Rectangle", I couldnt find the exercise from the book online. But basically you lope off the rail then come back to it then repeat. As your horse gets better you increase that angle off the rail more and more until you are almost to the other side of the ring.

So the first attempt with Milo left him a bit unbalanced once back to the rail and turning. He almost wanted to break to trot, but I pushed him out of it. By about the third attempt, he figured out to lift up his shoulders to stay balaced all the way through, but I could tell it was hard for him and knew it was not time to increase the angle yet.

I did this the other direction as well (to the left) which was much more difficult to do correctly as Milo kept twisting his head out and bulging his shoulder in. So I had to use a lot of leg, and a fair amount of rein trying to get his neck and shoulders straight. I did get one nice pass through on the fourth try I believe then brought him to a trot to start some cool down.

If I can continue to work on this exercise (as arena access allows) it should help "unlock his shoulders" as Sarah says. I also feel this will help him regain total balance in the lope (he still likes to drop shoulders and lean into turns) and should also help us work on our lead changes (I have ditched lead changes for the time being, I figure Sarah can help us get put together correctly then work on them when we are ready - so what if its a deduction in a class, I dont want to push us to do a sloppy one).

I tossed Milo's cooler on, and took his neck cover from out of the dust. It was supposed to be 18 degrees last night and 32 today, so Milo definitely needed some extra protection. I braided his mane in a few spots to try and combat some of the rubbing the darned cover does, hopefully it works and doesnt backfire on me allowing it easier access to rub the entire braids out!

Oh yeah, and my feet were rather cold after the ordeal. Leather does not insulate!


Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like it was a productive ride but I must say I don't understand your concern about the lead changes. You're really not doing flying changes yet anyway. You are coming down to a halt and then loping off the other direction. Since transitions both up and down are a good exercise for getting a horse deeper underneath itself, it would seem to me that incorporating those into your routine would reinforce what you're already working on.

If it were me, I would practice the transitions down to the halt and maybe mix up whether you lope off on the lead you came down from or change so that you have Milo paying close attention to your cue and not anticipating which direction you'll depart. And I would only lope a few strides in between transitions. This will help build strength for smooth transitions and teach him to maintain more roundness when he does get to continue loping. And you will still be keeping him sharp for when you need to do lead changes.

My feet are always cold this time of year and I wear insulated winter boots from Ariat because you're so right about the leather.

Anonymous said...

I dont think I have a concern over the lead changes except wanting to make sure that 1 I am cueing correctly and 2 Milo is physically capable and ready. I was hoping to get this answered from Sarah when she comes back in two weeks from vacation. I just dont want to leap forward if we arent ready yet. But I do agree with your thoughts on helping him maintain himself deep underneath as well as building strength.

in2paints said...

I can't wait until I can do some of these more difficult exercises with Lilly... the arena at the old barn would have been awesome for these kinds of things, but alas I prefer a barn that feeds the horses.

Sounds like Milo is doing well and I'm glad you had the arena to yourselves for once! I need to find my own personal "Sarah"... she sounds great.

Oh, and I just love Milo's eyes. His white eyelashes are so handsome!!

Sara said...

It makes me feel i wanted to haunt for more horse supplies to give my pet .