Remember last week when I said my schedule was changing to accomodate my back-to-school status? Well, yesterday was the first time on that new schedule. That is, if you missed it, my day starting at 6:30 instead of 7:30, allowing for a two hour lunch, ending the day at regular time, 4:30, and making it to school by 5:00. Bet you can guess what that two hour lunch window provides time for? Thats right, Milo time.
I got to take advantage of this new found mid-day freedom, and left the office due back at one. I made it to the barn about thirty minutes later (had to stop at the store quickly). Milo was quietly munching his lunch-time hay, and looked up curiously as my red truck drove past.
"Hello Milo, Milo, Milo, Milo, Milo!" I sang out to him, a spring in my step either from the two cups of coffee I had pounded at work, or the excitement of my afternoon break, probably both.
He poked his head out around the side of the shelter, watching me skip towards him (not really, I bounded from possible dry spot to the other, trying to avoid sinking into mud, I did, afterall, have to go back to work afterwards).
I haltered him snug, then up the driveway we went.
I spent the usual amount of time grooming my shedding horse, knowing it was a little too late into the extended lunch hour to try and plan a ride anyways. So instead of feeling rushed, I just mosied around and enjoyed my time with Milo.
The barn was eerily quiet, not something I experience very often. The lights were out, and the only sounds were not that of jingling saddles being snug onto horse's bellies, but soft whinnies from those horses turned out away from their buddies, and the destinctive sound of steel shoes slapping the concrete aiselway, as the weekday cleaner was rotating horses in turnout.
Milo stood quietly, enjoying his grooming. His shedding and the blanket left large itchy areas that he was have a grand time enjoying the curry to. I diligently groomed down his legs and cleaned the mud out of his fetlock hairs.
With only an hour passed, I brought Milo into the arena for some lunging. His nylon halter snugged down, I had then tried to figure out how to attach a lunge line to the top of his noseband. With no luck, and a 12 foot yacht lead rope being a bit too heavy, I settled for just attaching it in the usual position below the jaw. I would have to figure out some way to come across a softer, longer line, as well as a way to attach it to the top. Buying a used lunge line might just have to be the ticket. Sarah had suggested using a chain on the noseband in an X fashion, just like Peggy attaches her lead lines. So I will have to add a chain to the shopping cart too. The one on my short showmanship line probably wont give much length to lunge with.
I had taken the string off of my Clinton Anderson training stick, trying to mimik it as more of a dressage whip. I kept Milo close with the tension taken lightly out of the line, to keep some feel on his face. I didnt force his head into the circle or anything, just kept light contact. With my body and stick I tried to create forward energy as well as energy to step under himself and out with his hind legs. Things were doing ok, but Milo was lacking in impulsion, and kept wanting to fully disengage his hindquarters to stop.
To took some ideas from Kate at A Year With Horses about trying to incorportate more body language to create impulsion. I kept my feet slow at the walk, and with my body at a slight angle forward to him, not looking at him straight on. As I already ask for forward with my hand pointing in the direction of travel, why not incorporate my body into this signal as well? It seemed to help a bit, and at the trot I upped by own body's tempo to match that of Milo, and more when I encouraged increased impulsion.
This was working very well, and it felt like we were working together much more. Normally, to disengage the hind end, I would direct all my energy towards it, and in the opposite direction of travel than forward. I noticed when I was doing this to encourage him stepping under himself, he was doing just as my body suggested, and stopped and turned his hips away.
I thought about how I could change my signal to still mean hips out, but forward. I tried something when angled forward still at a forward walk. Instead of turning and looking directly at the hip, I instead kept my body angled forward, and just looked back at his hip. If no repsonse, he got a little pressure from the stick (not pressure directly on him, but just an approaching stick, if you can invision this). It really seemed to work after a few tries and eventually I was only having to look back at his hip for him to step up and out.
Milo was now traveling in a very correct posture. His head and neck were down, but not drooped, rather, arced, just slightly, as if a bridle were on him. His back was elevated and his stride was sweeping. I had achieved a properly moving horse from the ground, and he was working and focused, rather than sneaking a peak at the horse whinnying tied to the arena wall as he was initially.
I never knew I could get my horse to travel like this on the ground. This is definitely something I wanted to continue utilizing in our work.
I brought Milo back into the barn and did our usual stretches, then brushed him out again and put him away.
If all I can get from my two hour lunches is a little horse time and lunging, then Im totally game. If it only allows just enough time for that, I think it will still be hugely beneficial for the both of us, to get some riderless fitness on the ground.
I continue to look forward to Mondays!
Now, for great news! Drumroll please............my saddle sold! FINALLY! After seven months of listing on every available site including Craigslist, TackTrader, Horse Forums, eBay, Facebook, Blogs, and Flyers and word of mouth locally, it is finally gone. But not through eBay, 'course not. Six weeks of paying eBay fees didnt pay off! No, it sold on Craigslist, from someone in Wisconsin of all places. We e-mailed back and forth for more details and she sent payment via PayPal. Verified, it is not ready to be shipped after work today.
I did, however, have to take a financial blow on the saddle. I sold it for $100 less than what I bought it for. Couple that with the off billet I needed to buy for it when I first purchased, along with the eBay, TackTrader and PayPal fees (ya, what the heck, PayPal?!), it has made this little "investment" one that lost me money. But I'm not complaining too bad, as it did sell for just the remaining amount needed for my About the Horse saddle. So theres a stroke of good luck. I suppose I could have held out for the $900 that I paid for it, but knowing that I could still cover my costs of the new saddle with the reduced price, as well as the peace of mind that its sold and off my mind now and stress load, I think it is well worth it.
I have to say though, I sure will miss that saddle. I have grown fond of it, even when just sitting in my spare room. Granted, it didnt fit Milo and I really only rode in it just over a dozen times, it sure was exactly what I wanted. Beautiful dark color, rawhide accenting, basketweave tooling, and all the little details...sigh. Such a pretty saddle. But now I can look forward to my new custom one! Should only be a few weeks left before finished!