Good Day For A Few Rides
Chillier than yesterday, but full of sunshine with the ground thawed nicely in the arena.
I rode Tucker first. I am using a new JP Korsteel bit that is similar to the one I was working him in but designed slightly differently. I'm not sure it works as well as his old bit so I may swap back. It has exactlyt the same mouthpiece design--a losenge snaffle--but the mouthpiece is a little thinner and curves more. It just doesn't feel the same when he takes it, and I may be losing a little lateral suppleness.
So, that said, we had a nice school. I did tons of half halts during the ride with great success and no issues on his part. And I did a lot of canter lead transistions through only one stride of trot--a preliminary exercise for the flying change. I also worked counter canter, another important before the flying change exercise. The new "thing" I have to deal with is keeping him from backing up in the halt. A few days ago, when I halted and asked for the reinback, Tuck resisted, so I schooled the exercise. Now, when I halt, unless I am very clear that I want him to stand still, he gives to the bit and does a beautiful, even reinback. Hard to correct him for it, so I just focused on stopping and moving off again rather quickly.
I have found that training Thoroughbred is a tricky proposition. They are very smart and very quick to learn. Then, they are very quick to anticipate what you are going to ask. If the theory that an aid is uncomfortable pressure for a horse, so that response to the aid makes the aid stop, and hence, decreases the uncomfortableness, it's likely that the sensitive Thoroughbred will overreact in order to either avoid the aid altogether, or else react quickly to the aid so it does not need to stay on for long. So, in general, once the Thoroughbred understands the leg pressure that means "canter," rather quickly, he canters off the lightest suggestion of leg pressure, or even canters before the leg pressure. My horses learn, for example, the movements of a dressage test after only one or two run throughs. Then, I hardly need to tell them what to do at any marker because they react so quickly. The problem comes when they begin to anticipate--knowing they are supposed to canter at "A," for example, they start cantering at the corner to avoid being "told" to canter.
Tucker is proving no exception, so I am riding him with care to make it clear to him that he needs to wait for me to tell him what to do before he does it. Since his reinback is so lovely now, I don't want to make him think it's bad to do it, so I am trying to create situations where he will not offer the exercise on his own. Once we get that established, I can go back to schooling it now and then mixing it into the halts.
After the schooling session, I took him out for a hack in the woods. He was great and seemed quite happy out there.
I rode Toby next. After just a few strides of trot on the left rein, he decided to canter, so that's how I started the session. I'd put one of the blue plastic barrels out of the way on the woods side of the arena last night when I dragged it, and like Tucker, Toby decided to spook at it the first time past it on the right rein. Mind you, he, Tuck, and Chance had been out there all day with the barrel, but somehow its existence there when I was in the saddle made it into a monster of sorts. It only took a minute to sort things out, though, and after the cantering we trotted a bit and finally went out for the short ride in the woods too.
Saddled up Chance last. He was about the same as yesterday about going on the bit, although I think he felt a little less supple to the right, so I schooled about twice as much in that direction. Then, at the end, since the left felt really good, I asked for canter. He went right off on my leg aid, surprising me completely. We did about a half of the arena as I was a little worried about one or two slippery spots in the corners. Then, I brought him back down and headed out for the nice littles short hack in the woods too.
After I fed, I carted some fill out to the arena to pack into those spots where the horses' hoofs had dug up the base layer. Don't know how well it will work as the ground was already freezing up again. It's amazing how quickly the footing hardens up once the sun starts to go down. However, the good news it that sunset/darkness was getting pretty close to 6 PM. (acutally around 5:45, but another 15 minutes before it gets dark out.) Even better, Daylight Savings Time begins this year on March 9, so I don't have long to wait before sunset will be closer to 7PM!!
Can it truly be there is light at the end of winter's long tunnel?