Saturday I got to the barn around 7:20 a.m., hoping to beat the heat, only to find Saga finishing the last bits of his 6 lbs of grain. I decided to give him a chance to digest and cleaned out my trailer and my tack locker, both of which were in desperate need. I don't think they've ever been cleaner!
I saddled him up with my new Reactor Panel saddle, and when I went to put it on his back, it just sort of settled into place. No more guessing if it's too far forward or too far back, it was just THERE. How cool is that! He's still a little girthy due to the saddles that didn't fit, but I went slowly and offered him a few treats along the way. That improved his outlook on life considerably.
Our ride was nothing to write home about, but I warmed out outside with a long walk around the place. In the arena, he was more forward than ever, but that could be a due to sitting in a stall for five days. We are having some major issues with right turns, especially at the far (outdoor) end of the arena - he likes to pop his left shoulder and ignore my outside leg - or he chooses NOT to ignore my outside leg but interprets it as a canter cue instead. After a few rounds of that, I asked for counter-flexion instead, and lo and behold, our circles started to improve. Then he decided that he didn't like that and started sucking way back. He ended up getting into this "I will only canter or walk" frame of mind, so we went back to the left, established a trot, had a good circle each direction, and called it quits. I probably rode him too much with not enough breaks for the first time back in three weeks, but for all that it wasn't too bad of a ride.
Sunday I started out by going to Duchess' mom's house for a little ride on Duchess. What started out as work on trot rhythm soon became work on bending and flexing in the poll and jaw. When a half-halt on the inside rein gave me nothing but a brick wall, I really started to ask her to move her head when I asked for give. She's very stiff in both directions and just doesn't seem to register a half-halt. I would really like to work on this with Tina when she's back in town because I didn't like how much I was having to move Duchess's head to get her to unlock her poll and jaw, but I quite ran out of tricks to try. However, I really didn't encounter any problems with the trot rhythm, and when Duchess's mom got on her, she immediately noticed the difference. She practiced unlocking her poll and jaw and a little counter-flexion to get her attention and keep her from leaning on the right rein, so that was a good experience. I suggested changing Duchess's bit to a loose-ring (she's in an eggbutt now) so that she has less to lean on, and using a flash noseband, which apparently she had been using but her mom had taken it off. I'm not a huge fan of flash nosebands, especially when they're cranked down, but Duchess has a unique ability to blow off half-halts from the reins, so I think it could help for a while. I'll be interested to hear from Duchess's mom if the loose-ring with a flash helps any.
Then it was off to ride Saga. We started out with a long walk warm-up again, and he has a HUGE powerful walk that I'd never gotten before. I think his back is more comfortable so he's willing to do it more. We worked on moving off the leg at the walk and not sucking back when I pick up the reins. Actually, we worked on not sucking back, period. He does it at both the walk and trot (we didn't canter), and I need to be faster about correcting it. I did get a few steps of lateral work to the left, and I really focused on relaxing my left hip, which I found I was tensing when I was riding him bareback (riding bareback is REALLY GOOD for figuring out what your body is doing that it shouldn't be). His trot was much more forward and through than on Saturday, it felt so much better. At one point he was so engaged through his back I really couldn't sit it - I think there's a lot of power in there, and I'm going to have to learn how to keep it coming and how to ride it! We had less of an issue with the right circles at the outdoor end of the arena, mostly because I didn't set him up to fail like I did on Saturday. We just didn't do those circles, and focused on areas of the arena I knew he would be consistent in. Eventually we will get back to that, but not before he's moving off my leg better and I've got more tools to win that argument.
My best friend took a few pictures of us at the very end of our workout, but by then Saga was well done and not anywhere near his best. She also shot a short video of him - he's not great, but this gives some idea of him popping out his right shoulder while going left (he's about 10x worse to the right). Hopefully I can save this rather icky video for posterity and laugh at it six months from now. :)
After, she took a few still shots of him sans rider and saddle.
Right side - compare this to the earlier pictures I took of him May 26th for saddle fitting.
What a cutie!
After my ride on Saga, I headed over to visit Ziggy's dad and give him a hand with his two-point. Despite being an amateur and jealously guarding my ammy status, I really enjoy helping my friends, and Ziggy's dad wanted some more suggestions on improving his two-point. We worked over trot poles and a few small x's... I'm sure you can read more over on Ziggy's blog. Anyway, it was a great horsey weekend, and I can't wait till my next ride!