And He Forgets Nothing
It was a lovely, warm but not too humid day and every time I went outside I kept thinking--it's perfect for riding.
So, I did.
Now, I've not been in the saddle for how long? A month? Well, close to. The Boys have just been hanging out with an occasional--very occasional lunge. My knees are frustrating the heck out of me and by the time I get the barn chores done, I'm not up for much else.
But not today. So I coaxed Tucker into the barn, slipped his halter on and put him on the crossties. The first "shines" in my heading refers to his coat. It absolutely glistens in a dark bay glow. Since he has been wearing his flysheet, he needed minimal grooming--just a quick brush and a good overall spray with fly spray. It's a new brand that's supposed to be organic. Don't know if it really works well or if the flies were not bad at all today but we didn't have any bug issues to speak of.
I led him out to the arena, and up to the new mounting platform. What a treasure that is. All I had to do was step into the stirrup at the level of the platform and ease down into the saddle. Great, as that's one of the problems my bad knees present--mounting. Not sure how it will be for Chance, but stepping down into the stirrup will be easier than pulling myself up into the saddle, that's for sure.
We started off walking on a totally loose rein with no contact. Tucker moved off nicely and was striding out without any urging from me at all. After a few minutes of walk, I asked for trot. Off we went, again with no contact at all.
Tuck was very forward, but after once or twice around the arena, all on his own, he stretched down his head, looking for the bit. Very interesting. Given the option of no contact at all he wanted some and took my hand without my asking. I took a little hold, and he kept a nice forward trot.
The only little flaw in that part of the ride was my first change of rein from right to left. I made the mistake of hand riding instead of using my leg for the turn to the left and Tuck fell out on his right shoulder a bit too much. As soon as I used my seat and thigh for the turn, he was fine and from that point on I remembered my proper riding and all was well.
Just as a test, I asked for a little canter, and on the left, Tuck moved right off with none of the "ears back, I don't want to" resistance at all. We didn't do much since I know he is not fit, but lovely. Then, I asked for a little right lead--the one he's been very resistant about. Once again, no problem. Both canters were nice and forward and again, reaching for the bit.
We transitioned back to trot and I asked for just a bit more frame and balance. From that, as a test, we did one shoulder-in on the right and one on the left and then a little test of half pass on each rein. Tuck was spot on and quite ready to perform.
All this might have taken 10-15 minutes maximum, and it was just enough for Tucker to get wet under the saddle pad, but not too sweaty elsewhere. A nice sponge off, a fat carrot and the work was done.
So what? My delight is on two issues. First, again that even after such a long layoff, my boy responds correctly to the aids and has not forgotten anything he's learned. Thus, he is actually trained. For the second, I am quite pleased with his willingness to go forward and pick up those canters without too much fuss. I know he has some hock problems and it's quite possible that if I keep working him, pushing for more and more collection in dressage, he will get sore and lose his cooperative attitude. But, for now, he felt good and it was actually fun to ride him.
My knees were OK in the saddle and I didn't feel awful when I dismounted. Could be some of the exercises I am doing to prepare for my surgery are helping, or I could have just had a good day. A 10 minute ride isn't much, but even in such a short session, I can accomplish a lot. If I feel up to it tomorrow, I may ride Chance.
In the meantime, I'll just bask in the glory of Tucker's unexpectedly gleaming personality.