Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The arenas were all still closed tonight due to being soaked, so I headed back out to the mown stretch along the road in front of the barn and the property next door. This time we were by ourselves (no Reddums for moral support). We got scolded by some Scissortails (birds) and someone a mile or so away was shooting a gun. Saga was alert and looky but not spooky. We walked all the way down the ROW and I turned around toward home, curious to see if the jigging would return. It did not, thank goodness! He was much more forward toward home, but not silly, and he listened.
The problem arose when I got back to the home property line and turned him around to go back away from the barn. Someone had just turned a mare out in the pasture, and she was running around like a nutcase. We had about 5 seconds of "I DON'T WANNA" when I tried to turn him around, complete with the usual jaw-and-poll setting action, with a head toss thrown in for good measure. Saga has his opinions about things, make no mistake. Unlike Cash or even Red, he is definitely stronger than I am and it could turn into a dirty fight if I'm not careful to squash those moments quickly. He is also just so frickin' BIG, it's intimidating sometimes.
Anyway, we got over that and went on to have a very nice, quiet ride. We started off doing shallow serpentines at the walk, from one side of the lane to the other (the lane is about 12 feet wide). I concentrated on making sure he was straight in both reins, then changing the bend with my legs, body, and hands, and then moving to the other side of the lane in almost a shoulder-fore position. When we got to the other side, I'd again make sure he was straight in both reins, THEN change the bend with legs, seat, and hands, then when he was soft and supple, move him over. We also worked on leg yields, and I made sure that going left, I had my weight in my left stirrup and my hips and shoulders pointed in the correct direction. Amazingly, he moved off my leg very nicely - not quite as well as to the right, but he tried and we definitely are making progress on that.
We also did some trot work, both away from and toward the barn. I measured the path as I was driving to the barn, and I think it's about 0.1 miles one way. I'd estimate we got in about 0.5 miles of trot, over harder, uneven ground. Definitely better than the arena! We worked on changing the rhythm of the trot, more collected, more forward, more collected, walk, etc. He was very nice about coming back to me from just my seat and body aids and stayed very uphill the entire time. Actually, he's been more uphill the past two days than ever before. I'm hoping I can find a way to work him outside more, as he clearly likes it.
One nice thing about working on the straight lane was that I didn't have to worry about him drifting off the rail or having him bent to the inside or whatever. We just worked on STRAIGHT. It was SO NICE. I concentrated on keeping my knee down and back and my elbows out in front of me and my hands turned up. I don't know if it was my position or what, but he just felt so light and responsive. Where IS that video tape when you need it???
Toward the end Saga was getting fussy with his head, and it occurred to me that once again, I didn't give him enough breaks. We didn't do a lot of work but I didn't give him rein and let him stretch as much as I usually do, and he lets me know when he needs some stretch time. We had an ENORMOUS walk as we headed back to the barn, and I could really feel my hips and legs swinging from side to side. What a feeling! I had a bit of a moment when I opened the gate (we have a gate with a code box to get into the farm), concerned what he would do when it started to open "magically." I needn't have worried - he started through it as soon as it opened! We spent about 5 minutes in the dry end of the arena when we got back, and he was VERY fussy, resistant in his poll/jaw, and falling to the outside, which are all his ways of saying that he's done. However, I don't want him to think that when he heads back to the barn after a trail ride, his job is necessarily done. So we did some walk and a few trot circles each direction, then called it a day.
Before our ride, I took some pictures of his back, per the request of the new saddle fitter who will hopefully be out later this week. I'm posting them below.