Sunday, August 7, 2011

Slow cooking..

Having a "new horse" to work during late winter is a bit of a reality check. As cyclists, if it's too wet, too dark, too cold, too much of anything, we can hop on an ergo and wack out a few intervals no problem after we get home from work. No rush, no bother, all rather civilised.

Unless you have ready access to an indoor arena, horse riding is truly an outdoors sport. So without cover, or floodlights, there is a mad rush to get from work to the paddock to take advantage of any daylight left to do some work with Maz. Consistency is crucial for starting/retraining a horse. My only excuses now are if it's really raining and the arena surface is not up to being worked on (or the agistment owners have closed the arena), or the sun sets.Unfortunately work does get in the way, and some days the sun set too early for me to ride after doing the preparatory ground work. Dealing with not being able to "achieve" what I had planned for the day has been interesting! You just gotta deal with what you've got at that time, basically.

Luckily, the Union Movement invented something called "weekends"! Maz was getting more and more tense in her work during her first week back home, although performing ok, I was getting less confident getting on her - there was a little time bomb ticking. I realised I had been rushing her, in my attempt to beat nightfall. So it was time to slow it down a notch and change my end goal, from needing to ride her, to achieving calmness and true softness and then retaining it under saddle. I used the weekend to refocus on ground work, as well as then having enough time to ride without stress. It worked a treat.

End of week 1:

Ground work - consolidating stand-next-to-the-mounting-block-and-don't-swing-your-hindquarters-away (and also foot control for float loading)

And then the ride. Despite suddenly coming into season and showing the world, she was calm, responsive and working with me. It was our best ride to date.

Week 2 was a bit of a write-off, thanks to the aforementioned thing called work. No riding, but lots of ground work. Thursday was not a good day under saddle, firstly in girthing up, and secondly in getting on. A bit of a dummy spit by Maz as I got on the first time had me backing off my plans for riding, and just settling for a relaxed horse while I simply mounted. We achieved that, but there were obvious issues with saddle acceptance. This was compounded the next day by a swollen lower foreleg, and finding out Maz had been playing chasey with a new neighbour for two days. Lots of skidding on greasy paddocks equals a sore horse! So I was less worried about Maz's reluctance to take the saddle on Thursday, and was glad to have not pushed it.

All the things we take for granted with a riding horse are trained. Standing still while saddling up, getting on, pace control, stop, go, left, right, leading, dropping the head for haltering, loading onto a float,  tying up, ground tying, not barging, pushing, shoving, walking too fast or too slow, being hosed and scraped down, wearing boots and bandages, waiting when being fed. And these are the basics. But it's time well spent, and it's seriously true: if you don't have it on the ground, you won't have it under saddle.

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