The Focus is on Fun

I’m definitely focused on improving what I can while riding Scarlet. But I also want to make sure that I am not drilling him. Scarlet can do a bit of repetitive work but drilling ends up making him tense and anticipatory. He stops listening and just tries to do what he thinks comes next. So I want to make sure that I mix up my rides and ensure that he is doing things that he has fun with as well.

Friday, Holly happened to be riding the same time as I was. We both warmed up and then hopped around some jumps. I specifically kept us to the itty bitty ones and focused on either grabbing mane or exaggerating my release. Scarlet was happy to canter around and go over more jumps so it looks like he is not holding a grudge about being yanked on last time. Even so, I didn’t want to push it and decided we were done with that so we could have good progress.

Uno lept over a few higher lines of jumps and one ~3ft oxer. He was feeling it and kept playing after the fences. Once Holly got a line where he was good and didn’t play too hard, she called it quits as well. Then we agreed to go around the trail as a cool down.

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Buddies!

Scarlet was so behind my leg while we started out but he wasn’t misbehaving. Uno actually had a few problems of spooking and spinning while we were out there. And guys? Scarlet did nothing. He was so unbelievably chill while Uno freaked that I have no words to really describe my feelings. He just stood there and waited for him to calm down, then we walked off again. We have probably 3 of these incidents and in all of them, Scarlet calmly waited without getting worked up himself. I was so impressed with him and just so happy that we could go around the trail without getting tense or feeding off the other horse.

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GIANT thistle we rode past.

Saturday I wanted to ride a bit of bareback again so I put the pad on him and off we went. Scarlet really seems to enjoy when we do a warm up lap around the barn. I like it as well because it adds something new to our routine. After we warmed up, I had us trot around the back arena. I worked really hard on feeling the rhythm of the trot and not pulling my legs up. I think I got it down fairly well because Scarlet kept trying to speed up in the trot. Not like he was trying to run away but like he wanted to go back to a normal trot speed, not his slower sitting trot. I’m hopeful that I’m getting better at it, even if I still feel like a potato sometimes.

I really focused on using my seat and legs for turns and keeping him forward. I think that I should probably do more bareback riding, even if it’s not as good of a workout for Scarlet. I really focus on myself and my position a lot more when the possibility of falling is imminent.

Bonus: I got this little guy in the mail from Pony for a Pony this weekend! XD He is so cute and I love him so!

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Holy Lateral Movement Batman!

Scarlet was amazing on Sunday! I went out with the plan to maybe try a bit of shoulder in and some spiraling circles at a trot to work on stretching and lateral movement a bit. We haven’t been working on lateral movement much since I have been more focused on moving forward and feeling like he is lifting his back lately. But I want to make sure that I practice different things and work on other skills. Especially since my rides have been getting a bit monotonous lately.

We were able to get the back arena to ourselves on Sunday morning. People leave barrels and jankey poles lying in that arena all the time. Most of the time, I just ride around them but this time I wanted to be able to actually use the middle of the arena and not have to worry too much about steering around anything. I turned Scarlet out in the arena while I moved the stuff around. He got a good roll in and then just watched me move stuff. He didn’t want to come with me to the gate so I just left him there and got my saddle and stuff out at the crossties. The grain comes from the same tack room so he was tricked into thinking I had grain for him and came to meet me once I came back.

We warmed up at the walk and trot. I wanted to make sure we had lots of walk breaks since it was so hot but I still wanted to get some good work in so I decided to stick the shoulder in work during the walk break rather than after cantering. I had to correct my aids a bit but he figured out that I meant for him to walk somewhat sideways pretty easily. One side is always better than the other but we got a good half of the arena length in each side. So much better than the few steps we had done previously. I decided to ask for some leg yeild work since we were already doing lateral movement. He moved quite easily off my legs (a real shock). Our walk lateral problem has generally been that he goes too sideways. This time, we were able to get a bit more forward in there.

After the walk work, I asked him to pick up a canter and we warmed up on the right lead first. I was able to do lots of 20 meter circles at any point in the arena since I had moved all of the stuff out of it. We were in the center doing a circle when I thought “Can he spiral at the canter?”. And so I tried it. First I asked him to move toward the outside of the arena. We did, though not at as steep of an angle as we can at lower speeds. I think he wasn’t entirely sure what I was asking him. Then I asked him to spiral inward. We got to quite a tight circle before I allowed us to go back to the rail.

I was pretty stoked with his movement and decided to be really bold. I asked him to attempt a leg yeild while cantering. Now, I was really expecting almost nothing from this. I have never asked him to do this and I was not expecting him to just do it. Lateral work is hard. But he did! Not fantastic but we got about a quarter of the arena over. Twice! I was so happy with him. I let him take a walk break and then we did it on the left lead. This time, the spiral in and out was easier as he understood that I was actually asking him to move sideways. The leg yeild was about the same but I was so flipping proud of him.

After another walk break, we did some trot leg yeilds across the arena. Those could use a bit more energy but he worked so hard and listened so well that I was just super happy with the ride. I gave him a bath afterward as he was really sweaty. He didn’t appreciate that but I’m sure he felt better. He definitely liked the treats I shoved into his mouth while we were bathing.

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Terrible lighting but look at how long his mane is!

The Heat of Summer

It looks like summer has fully come upon San Diego. It was weird/nice to have high 60s for a while during May. It was quite nice for riding but definitely weird. Its been 80s for a while now with an occasional upper 70s day.  Since I ride after work, for the most part, it’s been a bit more difficult. I’m trying to make sure that I manage Scarlet’s walk breaks a bit more. He handles the heat way better than I do. I think its the Arab in him. As long as he has had enough water during the day, he sweats and stays cool. The only effect the heat seems to have is that he gets a bit lazier.

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Partial side eye

I’ve been out riding a lot lately, much more than the past few months. I’ve been getting consistently 5 days a week for a while now. Scarlet has been behaving consistently well and listening to me. I’ve made a concerted effort to be quiet with my lower leg when riding and to use leg aids before hand aids and it seems to have made a difference in his responsiveness. I also changed how I wear my spurs. At my last lesson Trainer D moved my spurs beneath my stirrup rest so that I can give spur aids only when meaning to. I’ve kept them there and I really prefer it. I’m not good at asking with my calf and use my heel for most of my aids. The way my spurs sit now, I can ask and then really insist on the aid. I’ve felt like I’m getting much better responses during rides.

Scarlet and his buddy Uno got turned out a bit together this last weekend. Holly and I were both there to watch to see if they fought. They had… so little reaction to each other that we felt silly for being so overprepared. Scarlet ignored Uno and went straight to roll. Uno was a bit more interested and Scarlet squealed at him as he came up while Scarlet was down. He was able to roll again later in order to really get that good scratch. Then they just stood next to each other and played bitey face. Scarlet kinda herded Uno around a bit. I never would have taken him for the dominant in a group but he was trying to take that role. Holly and I are going to do another supervised turnout or two and then we will feel pretty good about allowing each other to just grab the horses and throw them out into a turnout. It will be very good for them.

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Uno (His other eye was removed when he was young).

We had a flub up earlier this week when we were jumping. I was thinking of connecting two jumps in a curving line. They were crossrails and I thought Scarlet wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, the directions to jump in that I normally take would require us to change leads over the jump. I’m not sure I can do that. I haven’t asked Scarlet to land on a particular lead off of jumps (something on my list now). So I considered it and thought we could probably make a different slightly tighter turn than normal and stay on the right lead for both jumps.

I turned us in and we met it so terribly. I didn’t hold my position well and jerked on his mouth as well as flopping hard on his back. He was very good and launched us over it anyway. I apologized to him and circled so we could approach the jump from a normal angle from us. We cantered up and he just stopped. Not dirty, not hard, no sideways movement. He just said, “No, I don’t really want to do that one again.” I was a little shocked and circled to trot over it. He tried to stop again but I had enough leg that he had to hop over it awkwardly. I jerked on his mouth again and felt terrible. So I cantered us around, loosened the reins and grabbed mane. He jumped that one without as much hesitation and I kept out of his way. I called it a day after that.

Literally all of that was my fault and I felt/feel terrible about it. I was just having fun hopping over things and I wasn’t doing my part to make the jump really happen. I need to practice holding my position at all points over the jump. I don’t hold it enough on landing. I need to just practice the two-point more. I also need to make the release a much higher priority so that I don’t yank on his face. All things to work on for me, not him.

He didn’t seem to hold a grudge though and we had good rides after without any issue. Thursday we had some freaking amazing trots right off the bat. He was light and connected and moving forward. I was so happy with it. The canter wasn’t as good, very up and down. The canter is still very hard for us to improve. I would love some instruction on what is good because his canter feels good as long as it isn’t up and down but I don’t think he is trying very hard or lifting most of the time. Always something to work on.

Question for those of you who ride with dressage whips: how do you switch sides with your whip when you switch directions? Or do you not? I like having the whip on the inside side to give a bit more enforcement if I need it though I can do it with the whip in one hand. But when I change, any connection I had gets lost when my reins move around to change.