Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Summer Show............Early Morning Schooling


Part 1
As Legs and I neared the arena, I couldn't tell if anyone was in there schooling. The morning sun shining directly into my eyes made it impossible to see anything right in front of me, let alone anything off inside the dark arena. All I saw was the dark contrast between inside and out.

I did see someone off to my left approaching with a horse and lunging equipment. Despite my issues with grooms lunging horses at the Daffodil All Arabian Horse Spring Show I hadn't even considered the possibility that might be an issue now. I was beginning to think this morning schooling session just wasn't meant to be.

Still I moved Legs out of the bright sunlight into the dark hole of the covered arena. As our eyes adjusted to the change in light, I could only see on rider off at the far end of the arena. It was a country horse and there was a trainer giving lessons to its rider. I hoped by the time I had my horse warmed up enough to gallop there wouldn't be any added occupants to this now quiet arena.

I began with the usual flexing and bending. Legs and I moved down the rail working in a zig zag pattern as he moved off my legs. Usually I would do this working in the snaffle but I knew I didn't have the time to do a thorough work out in the snaffle before I moved on into the bridle. If I wanted any time to gallop the horse in the bridle I was going to have to cut out that usual step in our process.

While I would prefer to warm my horse up using the snaffle, I have learned from past sessions that flexing and bending Legs while he's wearing the curb seems to calm some of his fear of that bit. The horse starts out a bit bracey but the comfortableness of the well known routine quickly takes over. Before long the horse is doing the exercises just as well as he ever does them in the snaffle.

This morning was not much different. I applied my inside leg and I picked up the inside rein. My horse's head shoot straight up into the air. I just kept squeezing with my legs and petting the horse on the neck. I figured if I pushed long enough he'd get the picture. Finally as I applied more pressure with my inside leg and blocked his escape to the outside using my outside leg, my horse rolled over into the bridle dropping his head to the inside.

Once I felt that inside hind leg step deep up underneath where it belonged, I changed the aids to the opposite side. After two or three repetitions of this I felt Legs take that deep breath that is followed by a deep deep sigh. Legs was relaxing despite his concern about the curb.

Normally I like to use a long trot in my warm-ups too. However, that is one thing I never do with my horse when he's wearing a curb bit. I know lots of trainers who think that teaches a horse to go through the bit instead of maintaining it as a barrier. Although I'm not sure that is really true, I guess I've never been willing to find out. I've had enough difficulties with this horse and the curb, I sure don't want to get something started that could cause problems down the road.

My normal progression for a warm-up is walk, trot, then canter. Because I didn't have that longer trot to use, I spent far more time working at the walk. I really hate moving my horse off into that slow collected jog without lots of warm-up time.

After plenty of time walking and moving laterally off my legs, I decided I'd take my horse straight into a canter. I didn't want a slow western lope either without more warm-up so I moved the reins up my horse's neck and kissed for him to move out. By moving my hand farther up the horse's neck and repeatedly kissing to him, I was giving my horse permission to stretch out at the canter.

By this time there was only one more horse in the arena. Both horses were spaced far enough apart that I felt comfortable letting Legs gallop if I could get him warmed up enough to make that a reasonable request. Still the horse's fear of the curb prevented Legs from stretching out into a relaxed canter. What I had for the first couple of laps was a horse bracing at the poll and reaching only about half way up underneath himself.

Once the horse was finally warmed up enough to gallop, I moved him on into the faster gait. You would think I had broadcast some kind of invitation for people to join me because as soon as we moved into the gallop horses seemed to flock to the arena.

The most galloping we got in was about two laps each way of going. I did get a pretty good gallop considering the circumstances but I knew it wasn't enough to get my horse up underneath himself where I wanted. Still it was better than nothing.

I spent a little bit of time working on the more customary hand gallop that is used in the show ring. Even at that I did not get the rate that I really want to show my horse, still I did get a distinct change from the lope to the hand gallop. We also worked just a little on the transition back into the lope.

The first couple of times Legs ignored the change in my hand position and just kept right on going at the same rate. I pushed harder with my seat telling the horse "easy" and only resorted to applying pressure to the bit as a last resort. By the third time I asked the horse came down in about three strides and I didn't have to talk to him or use bit pressure at all.

I figured that was the best I could expect considering where the horse was on this day so we called it good and headed back to the barn. The horse got the chance to eat some of his breakfast while I headed back to the show office to retrieve my number. The next time the horse came out of his stall it would be to go show in our first open class in many years.

To be continued..................

Getting Ready in the Heat

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  1. I'm excited to hear how it went. It sounds like the warm up went well :)

  2. Hey there Mikael-

    I got your email, but I ended up not going to the show because of the heat. Was it pretty miserable, heat-wise???

    We ended up up tubing down the green river and swimming in our pool instead. Maybe the next show....