Monday, August 6, 2012

Hot Weekend - Good Rides

This weekend it was hot in Virginia, but not wickedly hot. There were some clouds, but not the heavy overcast skies of recent days. The BO and BOH went out of town to a reining show, so I did morning and evening feeding for the farm’s 26 other horses, with a helper. I got to the farm early Saturday morning and started feeding. After that, I got Buckshot’s stall ready and after a break, brought him down from his pasture for grooming and tacking up.

As I led him to the arena, he was calm and happy. We walked around the arena, doing turns, as I let the girth settle into place before tightening it. Then I pulled the German horse muffin treats out of my pocket and suddenly, he was awake! Buckshot started nickering and dancing with excitement! (He loves the muffins but he is not usually that excited!) I mounted and we started our warm up. He seemed happy to be working. And after our warm up, when we started trotting and cantering, he was over the top! He had lots of energy and lots of impulsion, and even a step more, he was strong. And this was my horse in August, in the heat – he had the energy of a horse in the cool temperatures of autumn. When I asked for a trot, he offered the canter, and seemed to really enjoy it.

We worked a lot on cantering. Well, a lot is relative, since it is still summer, and the temperatures and direct sunshine were baking us. But for a hot summer day, we did a lot of canter work. We also walked around outside the arena, and explored the grassy places, and the trees that offered shade. Thank goodness for the trees. For our last exercise, I devised a reining pattern for us to do. I walked Buckshot through it in miniature in the center of the arena. First we’ll do this, and then we’ll do that, etc. Then I took us to the rail and began the pattern. We did great! The arena was a little small to change leads in the center of what is essentially a figure-eight type move, but other than that one mistake, we rode the pattern and it was outstanding for us! I was so proud of Buckshot! We began our cool down after the reining pattern, and walked for a while. After an hour in all, I dismounted and untacked him.

Then it was time for a nice bath with medicated shampoo to fight off the beginnings of some scratches I found on his legs. I took my time since there weren’t any other horses around to bathe. What a ride! I was really surprised by his high, but responsive energy level and impulsion. Several times he cantered even from the walk, which is amazing. Buckshot does canter from the walk, but hasn’t done that much during the summer, preferring to canter from the trot. But on Saturday, he was ready for our work and gave it his all! Good boy! After feeding the horses their dinners, and making sure everyone was happy, well fed and well watered, I left the barn, exhausted.

On Sunday, I decided not to ride a full hour, since the heat and humidity were still pretty high, and Saturday’s ride wore me out, and Buckshot isn’t a young horse, even though he had the energy of one! We did great on our warm up and then began various exercises and patterns. I decided to work on the canter to trot transition since he was again very exuberant about cantering. I started off on a left lead down the long rail, and after five strides, did a half-halt and said Down, down, trot, and he came down to the trot. And we kept trotting for several strides. We did it again on the left lead and again, the transition was better. Then we did the same thing two times on the right lead, coming down to the trot. I was very proud of him and how he improved. It may not have looked great, but we haven’t really ever worked specifically on this downward transition, so for a first time, he did great. Good Buckshot!!

When we had been riding for forty minutes, we went into our cool down, and I decided to do it by walking serpentines down the entire arena. I thought it would be a calming and repetitive cool down. As we started, I focused in on my legs, and doing each turn with the inside leg aid being very clear, and the taking my leg off being very clear as well. I really concentrated and stayed focused on guiding us through each turn and riding a straight line across the arena, and we did really well! My focus, on just that one aid – my inside leg and it being on, or being off – paid off significantly. Buckshot’s responsiveness with each turn was wonderful! It was a great cool down, and reminded me of the importance of my focus, and of using my legs more and reins less.

It was a great lesson for me! And so nice to have a quiet arena all to ourselves and be able to work on whatever skills we want to work on. Very nice. What a good horse he is!! I am so privileged to have him. Hope your weekend was great also!

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