Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunshine, Fridays, and a Good Ride

Not only are Fridays the best day of the work week, but Fridays I get to spend extra time at the barn. While it might be because of cleaning pastures, I still appreciate the extra horse time. Yesterday, the sun was shining again, and I was eager all day long waiting for the clock to strike the end of the workday. I raced to the barn, wanting to strip off Milo's blanket and let him take in some sun rays. And I did just that, then flipped the blanket inside out over the fence rail to let the sun bake on the underside as well, after a long winter of darkness. Milo certainly appreciated his bare self.

I set to work cleaning the pastures, as the BO drove up with her trailer and loaded up Dusty for a trip to the vet for an ultrasound. Her pasture mate (although on the other side of the fence), Gracie, was not at all pleased about this catastrophic event, flipping her world entirely upside down. She raced up and down the pastures, showing off some acrobatic moves and whinnying all along the way.

Milo was disinterested in the world's new positioning, and instead gave Mom a mild heart attack as I feared what could happen...

He replaced the mild fear though with some laughs as I tended to cleaning his water trough.

GASP! Its coming towards me!!! 
Im still keeping an eye on you, runaway water. 
Chores done, I could now halter up Milo and prepare for a ride in the outdoor arena.

Although lessons were done in the indoor arena, I wanted to enjoy the sunshine while I could, and the nice footing in the outdoor. Although that meant the three riders hauling in would be using it, not only do I enjoy riding with them, but the arena is far large enough to comfortably fit the four of us.

I had been thinking about Milo working off the outside rein since our last ride on Thursday. I had discovered a few things about him and how much work would really be needed on both sides, and ended up deciding that I felt teaching him to balance off the outside rein might be better achieved by working in the snaffle. While I like the Turbo Lifter very much, I was not enjoying the amount of contact I was having to put on it, and when I started noticing a gaping mouth, decided that a much "milder" and flexible bit was necessary to gain his trust on the support of the outside rein.

I had scored a deal for a nice quick change western headstall on craigslist that I originally bought for back up in my trailer. But borrowed it from that location for the purpose to hold my snaffle and 5/8" reins. I was somewhat leery on how Milo would respond to the snaffle now that he has been out of it for a few months, because form previous experience, Milo would blow through the snaffle when brought back from a "bigger" bit.

But Milo pleasantly proved me wrong, and worked nicely in the snaffle. I think its safe to conclude that my "training" practices and methods that I were previously employing were the root of the problem when coming back to the snaffle. Yesterday, he quietly and willingly worked off it it, never trying to blow through it, but instead respecting it as I know Milo is capable of.

I was better able to work on training myself to hold steady on the outside rein, and bump with the inside as necessary, incorporating my leg aids when needed as well, especially traveling to the right. Trying to maintain a correct position and looking over my inside shoulder to displace my locked hip, Milo was traveling nicely and holding up the outside shoulder, balancing off the outside rein. We moved into arcing and counter arcing, first at the walk, then up to the trot in both directions. There were a few times when my timing was off and he instead tried to either"crab walk" or lock the shoulder and just move the hip. But with more concentration on the correct timing for the aid, things came together.

Up into the lope, and Milo was still working off the outside rein, and I was getting much more comfortable with maintaining a steady contact with it. Milo was moving nicely, but still requiring quite a bit of reminder to stay fluid through his body without locking up his shoulder and barrel as he most commonly likes to do. I would like to work more on arcing and counter arcing at the lope and have been touching on it a bit since my lesson, but I feel my timing is a big issue for us right now, as Sarah didnt tell me specifically the opportune moment to cue. Nonetheless, Milo worked nicely and even gave a small slide to my seat and Woah command. Good boy! He sure does like the outdoor arena footing over that in the indoor arena.

He did well the other direction as well, and I was really happy for working him in the snaffle, giving him a good opportunity to trust the outside rein. He wasnt noodley, or disconnected through his body as he previously was in the snaffle, but instead was utilizing his whole body nicely.

I was able to work on our halt and into the rollback. I broke it down easily and slowly to really make sure that he was balancing over the right leg, just like in a turnaround, as well as maintaining a steady turn with no anticipation to blow off into the new lead. Eventually, I did ask for a lope right off, but still kept the three part process in a slower and steady manner. It was highly beneficial for both myself and Milo, who was able to execute a solid, slower, rollback both directions.

I also worked on positioning his hip to the inside to begin our turnarounds, to which Milo was responding very well. Still only a few solid and correct steps with his inside leg brought up underneath him, but beautiful nonetheless, and as known he needs nothing but time to strengthen those hocks for a stronger, faster spin.

After a cool-down with walking fencing, I slid off and gave Milo huge pats. He was such a good boy, working so connected and well. There were minor moments where there was some disconnect, but he always came back and performed well. But that is expected when we are learning something new. It was a great ride, all in all.

Now, as promised, I got some better conformation photos for documentation for Milo's seventh birthday.

March 25, 2011 Kinda sweaty...

He looks so downhill!
Really, Milo? Thats the face for posterity?


Anonymous said...

He's adorable, and so sleek and clean (until he rolled!) - not like my furry beasts. Sounds like he's really working well for you - that must feel great.

Story said...

He does look wonderfully shiny and healthy. But don't go rubbing your mane out on the fence you naughty boy!

Funny, I have been wanting to go back to my snaffle lately, too. The bit I use isn't too bad for lateral work, bending and flexing, but I don't think anything can beat a snaffle for some exercises. If I actually start doing some dressage with Dee we will definitely go to a snaffle for that. I haven't tried her in a snaffle since last spring when we first got her and then I rode her like her trainer did with a running martingale. So much has changed since then, I'm actually rather excited to see how she feels in the snaffle compared to then. Hearing how Milo did is definitely encouraging!

in2paints said...

Turn that hotwire on! Save the mane at all costs!! :)

He looks great, and he just has the sweetest face! Sounds like he's really working well for you, even in the snaffle. That's how you know he has a great foundation.