And I Actually Rode!
It was up to near 70F today with nice sunshine. Quite a startling change considering there is still snow piled around my yard.
I did go to watch my friend's lessons. The farm where she rode is absolutely beautiful with a brand new indoor arena just finished in November. If you had all the money in the world to build a perfect place to have your horses, this would be it. The owners are really nice people and, I presume, quite well off. The owner, B, had just come back in from a two hour hack--they own acres and acres of nursery/farmland--on her young Wesphalian mare who seems to be a real sweetie. I know she ended up with the AIG year end championship at Training Level last year, so she must be a nice horse. I didn't get to see her under saddle, but she is a pretty dark seal bay and very friendly.
The riding instructor is student of the trainer I rode under at my last lesson months ago. She was pretty good, but not too inventive at finding ways to help her students get their horses more focused. She mostly had them stay on a 20 meter circle and just kept encouraging them to apply the correct aids to get the horses working on the bit. Nothing she said was wrong, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to come up with an alternate exercise to break up a pattern, or get a horse/student to understand a concept. She is currently working towards showing her own horse at fourth level, so she does have experience to teach at the level her students were working. But, I'm not sure she would be able to do much to help me except to just tell me when my horse was right and when he was wrong.
What I really need is an upper level trainer with a ton of exercises up his/her sleeve to pull out to help develop Tucker and solve some of his attitude issues. Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer of all time, was such a master at that. He had hundreds of exercises/tricks/techniques to handle almost any kind of training issue. I never ever left one of his lessons without learning a dozen new things.
But, watching the lessons, and the nice weather inspired me to come home and ride at least the two young Boys. Chance was quite interested in coming in to do something, so I rode him first.
As expected, he was rather unsteady about stretching down to the bit, but the concept is solidly there. He just can't quite keep a steady frame all the way around the arena, but I will give him the fact that there were still several muddy spots and some slightly slipperly places. The snow was all gone, and the arena is drying, but it's far from perfect. Some of his unsteadiness was due to the footing.
But it was interesting how he kept trying to figure out what I wanted, especially at the change of rein. By the end of the session I'd cantered him in a bit of a frame on both reins, and he had managed several changes of rein on a figure eight without popping his head up. Good boy.
I collected Tucker from the pasture where he'd moseyed off and rode him for a more active session. I did a lot of walk circling with changes of rein to start off, discovering he was a bit difficult to swap over from left to right bend. Since I think it was his right hock that had been bothering him, I have to wonder if there is a little physical stiffness there, but he too tried to figure out what I wanted. The difference with him is that when he does not understand, he rebels in some way. This time, he simply stopped, and I had to really press him into the new outside rein. Once he "got it" he was fine, but it's clear he does not like being confused. He'd be the kid in class who would give up on the work and flunk rather than admit he was having a hard time understanding.
His trot work was really good, although it needed some more "forward," so I opted for working into the canter early on. He laid his ears back at the first depart but once he got going all the rest of the transitions were just fine.
He still has a tendancy to carry his haunches in a little on the right rein so I will need to work on gettin him straigher on that lead. Again, I suspect he doesn't want to put his right hind under his body to carry his weight, so stepping a bit to the inside is an evasion. Again, I will need to monitor this. If it is a soreness or even a chronic weakness, I will need to build him up.
Lots of canter trot transitions energized his gaits nicely, so I'm pretty sure mixing up the gaits and the exercises is the key to getting him active. Once his brain is challenged, he steps up his physical effort to match.
I ended with an forward walk to a halt and a few reinback steps, or just a sharp walk off from the halt. One of the other challenges he makes is to the rein at a halt where he will poke his nose out and then resist the bit. Once I corrected that a few times he decided it wasn't worth the game and he submitted.
Right now, Chance is really pretty straighforward to train. Tucker is a brain game.
I'll just have to ride Toby when I want a break. *S*