Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At Laaast.....

My love has come along....

With daylight getting longer (hooray!) and rain reducing to less than typical downpours (knock on wood), plus the working of the arena (thanks to the drill team who now uses my barn's arena for practice - too bad this wasnt the case when I was on the drill team!) the outdoor arena is workable.

Workable I should re-emphasize. The outdoor arena does have it's downfalls: even dips, deep footing in the drier months, and since the trainer rarely works down here (Ive seen her work here maybe twice) it doesnt get a daily drag like in the covered arena.

But I am looking forward to this spring and summer because with the drill team practicing here, Brittany (cowgirl and fellow trainer at barn) will see to it that it gets worked before their practices. That means it will be given a lot more attention this year then in years past. Whoo-hoo!

So, the arena was puddle free I observed when haltering Milo, and with there being ample daylight (and over a handful of people making their way into the indoor arena) I decided it would be a good opportunity to ride in my favorite arena. Two other boarders had the same idea, but I was much more eager to ride with the two of them in the larger arena, versus boarders and lessons in the smaller one.

The girls had some cones set up, and I set up the arc poles for Milo to get a chance to work over. In case you didnt get the mental image the first time I tried to describe it, here are the poles:

The book describes five poles being set up, but for starters I wanted to work Milo over just four until he got the hang of it and started bending and lifting properly over them.

I led Milo down with his halter on and headstall in tow. I wasnt sure if I would need to longe him after his weekend break, or if he would be excited over working in the outdoor arena. I had him tied as I set up the poles, and he seemed quiet and calm, so I ended up just putting the bridle on.

I warmed him up on the rail a few times around, and poor Jake, being in the pasture right next to the outdoor arena, threw his head over the gate and whammed it down on the gate over and over and over, banging the gate in it's hinges, and making it bounce up and down. Oh Jake, Im sorry that Milo is right on the other side of the fence from you, but you really shouldnt try breaking the gate, thats not cool. At least he wasnt pawing at it though, I thought. Spoke too soon.

Fortunetely, Jake's temper tantrum didnt rub off on Milo, who warmed up well. He felt a foot taller that ride, lifting his back right up and driving from the rear. Ive noticed that Milo always works better in the outdoor arena then the indoor. Im not sure if he simply feels more comfortable outside in the larger arena, or maybe he likes the footing better, or possibly he knows that I enjoy it outside more too. I thought too the possbility that Milo was overall better balanced due to his new trim on Friday (more on that later). But in any rate, he worked well and was completely tuned into me.

Since the girls had their cones out, I established some nice even circles around them, then slipped into figure eights when our circles had been perfected. Not only is this a great visual exercise for me (my circles if Im not concentrating can drift pretty badly), but it would get Milo working well in a circle before working him over the arc poles. He worked nicely at the walk and trot, and I soon moved our circle over the poles, first in the direction I knew he would do well at - the right. It took two attempts to get him back into his rythym, but he nailed it quickly, working over the poles perfectly. I trotted him off straight a bit, then circled back around for the left track. Much more difficult for Milo, but he picked it up much easier then our first time working over the arcing poles. After three phenomanal passes through, I moved him off the poles for some loping. 

He departed nice and straight, and framed right up, driving deeply from behind. He worked some nice circles, and I was able to work him on the serpentine lope exercise as well, which he did well at. I can start expanding the angle off of the rail now and increasing the difficulty for him. His lopes where beautiful, and I relaxed my back for a lope to halt. He parked his butt right down into the sand. Wow, nice work Milo. We rolled back the other direction and loped off. Even to the left now, Milo was doing much better on keeping the inside shoulder up and not poking his nose to the outside. A few circles, and the serpentine exercise later, I brought Milo back to the trot. He had worked beautifully. 

We worked a bit on our fencing, and Milo is starting to keep a much nicer straight line towards the fence. He biggest downfall now is decreasing his speed the closer we get to it. I think the best route for resolving this will be when he decelerates, to drive him up still but with the fence closing in, square him off (as Story from All Gear No Skill suggested) and drive him off making him stay at a steady and increasing pace. Then direct him back towards the fence and repeat as necessary.

Probably the best thing about our workout was Milo's consistent and greatly lifted back and withers. Im really not sure which is the reason behind it, if its the variables of the outdoor arena as already described, or if since the footing is a bit deeper and Milo has to work harder, it results in really making him lift over his back. Im not sure, but we sure did have a nice ride. Milo was pooped after the forty minute workout, and I led him back up to the barn, Jake banging the gate still behind us.

The beautiful DM Lifter bit of Sarah's. I just love it's detail and antique feel. You know you like the bailing twine curb strap too. The height of the cheek pieces doesnt allow my leather curb to fit properly. My DM Turbo Lifter arrived in the mail last night, so yesterday was my last time working in this bit.

After giving the headstall and elevator bit back to Sarah, it enabled me to use my headstall and reins for her Lifter bit. I forgot how much I loved my headstall. Milo sure looks tuckerd out, doesnt he?


Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you had a great ride. Curious, what kind of distance do you have between those poles? That fifth pole will really up the degree of difficulty. How Milo does with that will be fun to see.

paint_horse_milo said...

MiKael, about three feet a few inches (thats my feet toe to end) Ive found that this equals Milo's trot stride far better then any measurement I found online (I think they say four feet a stride). I did increase to five yesterday, and it only took one pass through for him to get the hang of it. Its a great exercise.

Story said...

That's funny MiKael asked about the distance because that's always the question that keeps me from using poles in any of my work (and yet I come from a hunter background - not my fault, someone else always set the poles and jumps!). Of course the barn I'm at now doesn't have any poles, but if they did, I wouldn't know how to place them. So often books say "place them a trot stride apart". How long is a trot stride?! I've never measured. I feel embarassed to not know, though, because I'm so obsessive about any information about horses...how did I miss what normal stride lengths are?

Anonymous said...

Its ok, I was never educated on trot strides by feet. I learned Milo's by trail and error. I think the first time I set up trot poles I set them six feet apart! LOL I quickly learned the right distance for Milo just by watching how easily he could move over them while holding the same tempo.

in2paints said...

I'm loving the exercises in the book too!! :)

As far as strides go, it really does depend on the horse, which makes it terribly complicated to figure out. I was told, though, that you can increase or decrease the distance if you want to manipulate your horse's stride (like to get them to lenthen or shorten). So it's really a crapshoot... so I'm only using one pole for now. :)

Lilly has a difficult time walking in a straight line too, and about 20 feet from the fence she's trying to decide which way we're going to turn. I have a lot of work to do!

Sounds like you and Milo had another good workout!

Rising Rainbow said...

The reason I asked about the distance between the poles was because I thought you had said in the last post that you were working at both the trot and the lope over the poles. I knew looking at your picture you couldn't be loping over those poles. It looked like you had them set pretty tight to trot over as well although that must just be your camera angle because your measurement is not tight if you are measuring from the center of each pole.

I don't know where you were looking for length of stride but for me, I always check the USEF rulebook for measurements for trail obstacles and I believe they have them for jumps too. They will always tell you the acceptable range for measurements and thus the normal range of strides between different horses. I never remember the measurements, have to look them up for a "legal" course, but I can eyeball them pretty well for practice because of years of riding trail classes but I would have to check the book if someone asked me what to use. LOL