Archive for April, 2008

On The Backside

No, this isn’t about me falling on my butt, in case anybody was wondering.  No, this entry is about “the other side” of what CANTER does, lest anyone think it’s all playing “my pretty pony” and enjoying sunset trail rides.  As anyone who frequently browses the website knows, we provide free internet classifieds for trainers at the track, so they can market their horses direct to the public.  Which is a win-win-win situation, really, for the horses, the track trainers, and the people trying to find that diamond in the rough.

Before I started actually going to the backside of the track at Charles Town, I wasn’t really sure what to expect- I had heard lots of stories about shady goings-ons at racetracks, and that there were lots of people who didn’t “care” about their horses, and pretty much expected to be overwhelmed and out of place.  But after my very first visit, I found I loved the place. 

You’d be hard pressed to find friendlier people anywhere, for the most part (though some might argue that it has something to do with being cute girls in a predominantly male environment).  Everyone says hello and good morning- everyone.  It’s almost sort of disconcerting, you’ll hear, “hello ladies, good morning!” coming from stalls that appeared empty (ok, so that can make you a little bit jumpy), riders walking by on their way to and from the track stop to say hello, trainers with things to do and places to be will smile broadly and give you some updates on their favorites. 

If you’re used to the hustle and bustle of the outside world, where everyone is on a mission, and too absorbed in their little electronic gadgets to actually TALK to other people, this can be a little weird at first. 

Then we get around to actually taking listings, which can be a little bit of a roller coaster of an experience.  One trainer might say the horse needs to go as soon as possible, to the first person with a trailer, which always makes me a little nervous and sad.  Another trainer might talk for what seems like hours about his favorite horse, and how he wants him to go to a good home, and how he has to have six peppermints every day. 

Occasionally we run into a trainer who has sold a horse, and if they’ve gotten updates- watch out.  Every horse that people get off the track to retrain as a jumper?  Is going to the Olympics.  As an aside to anyone with an off track horse, the majority of trainers seem to love updates, but any little accomplishment you might mention is very likely to get much bigger in the telling on the backside.  Crossrails become 5′ fences, and successful trail riding can become 100 mile endurance racing really fast.

One of our favorite things to do on track visits is to stop up at the track itself, and watch a little of the morning workouts.  This serves two purposes- first, it alerts trainers who aren’t in the barns that we’re there, so we often get a lot of leads and a list of barns to visit.  Second… we just like to watch.  Really, there are very few things that get my heart beating so hard as a Thoroughbred racehorse does- even a not-so-fast one at Charles Town. 

On Saturday, standing near the rail, was a trainer who has listed horses with us before (and sold them successfully, she informed us with a grin).  A couple of horses worked by, and made me stop midsentence as I watched them, their feet pounding and breathing hard.  They sounded like trains, or some sort of otherwordly machines, it’s sort of hard to describe the sound.  I said that I would like, just once or twice, to try that out and really feel what it’s like to go all out- I’ve been close, but not quite.  The trainer turned and gave a knowing smile… “there’s no drug in the WORLD that will give you that rush…”

After a brief discussion of exactly how it feels to ride a fast horse, we turned back to scope out a few more barns.  Along the way, we saw some “old friends” (like a horse who was listed once, but the trainer seems intent on keeping- and overfeeding), and also had a few sobering moments (one horse who needed to be gone ASAP as she was injured turned out to already be gone).  As much as I love going, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and sometimes we find out things we’d rather not have heard.  But at the same time it still has an odd feeling of home.  And I’ve decided too that any place where you can find a goat dressed in pink kids’ clothes is a place that on most levels is fundamentally good.

(as a brief kloninator update- someone may be coming to take a look at him tonight- keep your fingers crossed!)

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April 22, 2008 at 10:16 am 1 comment

Conversations With a Red Horse

Over the course of the last week, I’ve done a bit of ringwork with Klondike.  To be totally honest here, while he’s probably one of the most fun horses I’ve ever sat on, ringwork is not his favorite.  It’s just… what’s the point of staying on the rail? Or of going endlessly in circles?  And more importantly, what’s the point of going on contact and stuff, when we could be on a loose rein, enjoying the fresh air and sightings of all sorts of interesting wildlife in the woods? 

I can’t say I disagree that much, but I know that horses need to know certain things if they’re to be successful in life.  Things like going in straight lines, and moving forward into contact.  So we worked on those things a little bit.  Over the course of a few rides, we accomplished some really good stuff.  I took Jess’s advice, and threw in some canter work pretty early, since that’s the gait he’s most comfortable and relaxed in. 

Cantering early definitely seems to make a difference, when we move back to trot, he’s much more loosened up and happy to take a little contact.  In fact, we had several moments that can almost be described as “almost round” where he “gave” to the bit contact a little- bringing his nose in instead of giraffing about.  While this is definitely preferable and a sign of progress, maintaining the “forward” through this is somewhat difficult.  He tries really hard, but it seems to be a new trick for his body, so all the pieces are not together yet.   I would also love for him to consider stretching forward and down from the base of the neck, but he’s not quite there yet either, though I suspect it will take only a few more rides.

The straightness/inline issue we are tackling not by working on straight lines, but by doing a lot of circles.  As he improves his body control on the arc of the circle, his general straightness and “staying between the legs” improves as well.  On the circle, it just seems like there’s more room for me to control his body parts.  If I could scientifically explain that, I would, but I lack the skills of communication.  In any case, the “motorcycling” through turns and circles is now drastically reduced, and in the course of our work the other day, we had a bit of an epiphany, which I will sum up in the following conversation (me in red, kloninator in blue):

“arg, horse, you’re tipping and popping your shoulder, and none of your feet are on the same track!”

“Well lady, let me give you a hint.  Maybe if YOU straighten out, I can do this better.”

“What?  You mean… if I stop collapsing to one side, and keep my outside rein actually OUT, and my hands wide and directive… then it’s easier for you?”

“Regular rocket scientist you are.  Now give me a cookie.”

In other words, “duh.”  As usual, the real discovery here is that it’s not really such a matter of training the horse, as it is riding right, which allows the horse to figure out what you want and gives him the very best chance of success.  I think I learned that in my third riding lesson when I was eight, but sometimes I’m slow to catch on.

There’s not much left to say about the joy that is ring work- as his body gets stronger and more flexible (yay carrot stretches!), he’s getting better and better.  In the last two rides he picked up both leads every time, the first time I asked.  He’s also very quick to pick up on when you’re pleased with him, so our rides involve lots of pats and “good boooiiieees!” He seems to understand that when I sound excited, he’s done something fantastic.

After fun ringwork the other day, I decided a nice quick walk in the woods would be relaxing, since that’s where SuperKid is the happiest.  What I hadn’t counted on was how quick he was to pick up the routine- I have a habit of getting off near the barn door.  So after learning how to stand and move so that I could open the gate from horseback, he pretty much thought we were done.  Which led to conversation number two (again, me in red, klon in blue):

“la la la, time for a nice walk!”

“huh? this is the barn door.  The barn door, lady!  It’s carrot stretch and rubdown time, what the heck are you thinking?”

“er… was thinking we’d go for a walk?”

“but.  this is the barn door.  We’re supposed to go in there.”

<interjecting- this is where he started backing up and being a little stubborn.  I turned him a few times, so that his feet were at least going where I wanted, when I remembered Allie’s words of wisdom about keeping them occupied, and tried something different.>

“Ok, well you don’t want to go up the driveway, but… HEY WHAT’S THIS?  IS THIS A GRASSY HILL?  Don’t you just want to see what’s up there?  What’s up there Klon, huh?  huh?  You know you want to see!”

“oh hey, haven’t been up here before, what’s all this?  cool! let’s go up here!”

In other words, while I could have forced the issue of walking straight up the driveway, I distracted him completely by turning left and pointing him at a little grassy bank thing.  Which was interesting, and got his attention.  When we came back down again, he was firmly in “let’s go for a walk” mode, and we had a lovely, leisurely loop through the woods (where we also worked on stretching down from the base of the neck while walking up hill- trail rides are great for “stealth training”)  Our little ride ended with a spectacular sunset- the farm where he’s living now has a gorgeous, red sunset almost every night.  I got off in the upper ring, having learned my lesson about routine.  🙂

April 19, 2008 at 8:38 pm 2 comments

How You Fall in Love

Falling for a horse is a funny thing, not that much different from falling for a person, really.  There’s lots of romantic stories about “love at first sight,” but that’s not how it is for most of us.  For every heart-pounding story of seeing big dark eyes from across the barn and just “knowing,” there are hundreds of us who experience something else, something more like “eh, he’s ok,” until suddenly you realize you are hopelessly smitten. 

That’s how it seems to have happened for me with Klondike.  Sometime over the last few days, I’ve gone from, “he’s so adorable, someone is going to love him!” to “wow, I really love him.”  With something like shock, I realized that when he goes (which will probably be soon, I don’t see how anyone could try him and not take him home), I’m going to be sad.  More than sad, even, upset- and I feel very sniffly thinking about it.  Previously I had felt only excitement- there’s something about seeing a good person find a good horse that makes everyone feel good, right? 

I can pinpoint the exact moment that my feelings towards the orange beast changed, too.  Monday I was moping about the barn, having gotten my own horse checked out by vet #3 for his lameness issues.  I had been planning on just brushing Klondike, because he’d worked hard all weekend and I figured he could use a rest.  But it was a nice day, nicer than what had been predicted, and maybe since I was sort of bummed out and flustered, Allie suggested a trail ride.   On a day like that, once I thought about it, a little mosey could be just what I needed.

So off we went.  The air was cool, but not too cool.  Everywhere you looked, there was bright green grass, so lush it almost looked fake.  Flowering trees were in full bloom, and everwhere else there was that pale green dusting of new tree buds about to burst.  That alone put me in a better mood- when things are growing and so full of life all around me, it just feels like everything is right in the world.  Or at least, like most things are.

We went a new way, that I’d never been before, and found ourselves in a lovely field full of little dips and rises, with lots of room for moving out.  Without really saying much, we found ourselves trotting along, and then Allie asked if we wanted to canter (like I can resist that when it comes to his canter?) We rolled along up the hill, spring breeze in our faces, when Allie gave us some direction- turn right at the top.  Without even really thinking about it, I squeezed the right rein- didn’t pull, just gave him a “hey, we have to steer a little up here” sort of noodge.

And that’s when it happened- he flicked an ear back, and as if reading my mind, cocked his head to look to the right, to see where we were going.  And when he saw the break in the trees, he just went, like he needed no further direction or encouragement, understanding completely what I wanted to do and where we were going.  Strange that such a simple, tiny little moment can cause your heart to swell, but maybe it’s because at that moment, we weren’t two separate creatures- for just a tiny, fleeting second, we shared some thoughts and intent, and apparently that’s all it really takes to fall in love.

Some more actual training updates and stuff later… it’s just been a weird week, and suddenly realizing exactly how attached I’m getting to this horse, and how hard it will be when it’s time for him to move on, has made me a little (gee, a little?) sentimental. 🙂  Till later…

April 17, 2008 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

MINE MINE MINE MINE!!!

So I get asked all of the time why I don’t own a brazillion OTTB’s, having access to so many cute faces on the regular, and the answer is two-fold.

First, I own 7 horses.  There, I said it.  I admitted it out loud, I own SEVEN HORSES.  *THUNK* (allie faints)

Second, the reason I don’t own 15 horses is that I try to keep a little bit of a distance from them.  I go and love on them, groom, feed carrots, you name it, but I keep my heart at bay.  It’s something i’ve nearly mastered after 7 years of doing this.  Note I said “nearly mastered”.  Yesterday I found myself saying “you CANNOT HAVE ANOTHER HORSE ALLIE! NO!, BAD DOG!” after having what had to be one of the most fun times I’ve ever had on a horse.

Kelly and I decided to take the horses to a local Hunter Pace put on by HCIBH, at the beautiful Pleasant Prospect Farm.  We loaded up Klondike and my horse Phinny, and headed off on a chilly morning.  The ponies loaded great and we pulled into the farm with approximately 80 other trailers.  There were a LOT of horses.  We got registered and headed back to get dressed.  We pulled ponies off the trailer and tied them up while we changed.  Phinny, ever ADD-riddled, paced in place.  Klondike stood just taking in the sights without moving a muscle.  SUCH a good boy.

My initial plan was to tack him up and just wander around the trailers in-hand to let him take everything in, as I was expecting him to be at least a little looky.  Well, he proved me wrong.  Stood like a gentleman to be tacked up, stood for me to get on, walked calmly past the kids galloping about and down into the crowd of cars/people/horses, so we went ahead on to the start line.  Here’s a video of Klondike being an ANGEL.

We started out trotting a little bit away from the crowd, and up the driveway past all the barns and trailers, and picked up a nice little canter along the treeline.  I’d never cantered klondike before except for a few little strides (and had only ridden him once before ever) and was shocked at how fantastic the stride felt.  Very rhythmic and steady–he never increased pace, eased into my contact and comfortably cantered until I sat and half-halted.  Back he came to a lovely trot and down to a walk, where we turned down our path into a trappy, muddy looking creek.  He marched through the muddy creek (it was boot-sucking mud, and scary looking!) as if he’d done it 100 times before.  I looked back to see Kelly and Phinny pop over it, as most horses tend to do in these scenerios (deep ravine, small creek, muddy landing).

We toodled up the path and cantered a bit more, and this time Klondike picked up this fantastic canter where we just felt like we were loping down a hunter line.  I sat in the tack and giggled, giving a little squeeze every now and again to remind him that I’d like to keep going.  On top of the hill Kelly and I were chatting about something insignificant when I realized we’re literally walking past the equivalent of a junkyard, and Klondike hasn’t even bothered to blink.  Ok, this horse is unreal, EVERY horse should be looking at this stuff!

THEN! Klondike, Phinny, Kelly and I conquered MT. DISASTROUS!  This was one of the steepest, trappiest, muddiest/rooty/scary hills i’ve been down in a long time.  It was well chewed up and had I been on a less steady mount, I’d have found another way down, it was SKEEERY!  Once Klondike realized that I wasn’t helping him out on making it down, he figure out how to kind of sit back on his butt and inch down slowly.  When we got to the bottom (it was a long hill!) I pat his neck and told him what a good man he was.  He arched up into my hand as if to say “I am so AWESOME, you betta recognize!11!!!”

Klondike eye-view

Once we were well warmed up and clocking along, we decided to take a little jump.  Other than the day prior, I don’t think Klondike has jumped solid obstacles in the open before.  Well, lets just say you would never be able to tell.  He bravely approached a log, lightly popped over and patted the ground on the other side.  He was round, he was rhythmic, he was fantastic.  I squealed in glee.

I got a bit braver and decided to jump a tire jump that we came upon.  I at least expected a little squirreling around, or at least a teeny wriggle in front of the jump.  But not only did he not wriggle, he never changed pace and only required me to sit balanced in the tack.  Bloop! over we went, effortless and adorable.

Klondike thought the river was fun too, and led the way through each time, and proudly marched anywhere we pointed.

This continued for the length of the ride, with Klondike leading over logs on the trail, and even going through a three stride little log combination with all the grace of a seasoned A/O horse.  Oh holy cats, i’m loving this horse more and more.  I actually felt him go “hrmm, this monkey on my back isn’t going to tell me what to do here, I better figure it out myself” and adjust his pace to jump perfectly, land lightly, and perfect three strides to the out.  SO MUCH FUN!

He was so good, I thought it would be a fine display of bad horsemanship to loop my reins and videotape the experience.

The only excitement of the entire day came when we were in a rather open field, and several groups of horses came busting out of the woods and galloping in all directions.  That got us a few sideways canter steps, but once we were headed forward again we had completely fine Klondike who really was not bothered at all by the horses crossing his path.  While all of this was going on, I decided to jump a post-and-rail in our way to keep his brain engaged (this is KEY with OTTB’s, if there is something scary going on, give them something else to concentrate on) and kept on with my canter.  The groups of hooligans disappeared from sight and we both loped along a beautiful meadow past a field of cattle.  Without blinking, Klondike eased into my hand and we picked up the pace just the tiniest bit.  I checked the brakes and saw that they were working just fine still and turned around to check on Kelly.  When I looked back I saw the hooligans show up again, and they were now directly behind us and closing fast.  Etiquette states that you let the group ahead of you know you’d like to pass, and wait for them to move off the trail so the faster group can continue on. As demonstrated here by two lovely girls poking along a little faster than we were, you can see we’ve pulled off to the side to let them pass:

Well, some folks never got the memo about etiquette in horse riding, and those people need to be beaten about the head with a bag of oranges.  So class, if you saw two people cantering along just as happy as can be, and you were in a group of 4, behind another group of 3, what would be the appropriate response if you were dead-on galloping?  I can tell you what the appropriate response is not, and that is to not warn the slower group you were approaching, not pick one side to pass on, and instead split your field between two horses.  Can you tell this irks me a bit?  This is how you can get someone killed folks, it’s not fun, it’s not funny, and it’s not safe.  We were in a giant field, there was plenty of room to pass, and when I’m sitting on a very green horse turning around and screaming to please not blast past us, much less split the field around me (that means horses went around both sides of me at warp speed), that means you!

Luckily I’ve had experience with jerks before, and knew that the appropriate response was to go a bit faster on Klondike, so it kind of fools them into thinking they arent getting left behind.  Well, I was very cautious because the typical response of a horse in this situation is to lose their proverbial marbles.  Klondikes response was more “GAME ON!” and he took a feel and galloped on a bit.  I let him gallop (no sense in fighting since it was good footing and it would tire him a bit) for about 20 seconds then asked him to come back a bit to a nice canter clip, and aimed him for the last post-and-rail jump on the course.  He took that in stride and came back to a lovely trot and walk when i asked.

SUCH A GOOD BOIEEEEEE!

Back at the trailer we tied up again and got undressed.  Klondike looked tired, but happy.  I’m in Love.  I want him.  I’m going to end up the crazy horse lady, with lots of lovely ponies and no family or friends.  Someone better buy this horse before I do, spread the word!

I call this, Big horse, Giant Halter.

Klondike the adorable

(On a gross money related note, Klondike is proving his worth daily, and his constant price increase is showing that! He’s still a bargain at $3000!)

April 14, 2008 at 10:07 am 8 comments

Public Appearance #1

Saturday, Klondike had his first ever public appearance, going to Frying Pan Park for an introduction to outings and baby cross country stuff.  Have to say, for a first time out, he cotinued to show what a very smart and capable boy he his.

He started his trip by loading into the trailer with no fuss at all.  He almost seemed to wonder what the fuss was, since he gots lots of scratches and pats and “good boy!!!”s after getting on.  More concerned with the hay bag than anything else, he seemed to regard the trailer as simply another opportunity to be spoiled with food. 

Once at Frying Pan, he unloaded equally well, stood tied to the trailer, and tacked up perfectly quietly.  He got to take a good look around at all sorts of new and exciting things- sheep, tractors pulling wagons full of visitors to the park, small children, and even a horse pulling a cart.  He did seem a bit concerned about the cart, as if he was maybe wondering if it was chasing the cute little horse, but he kept his worries to himself and stood perfectly still.

After exploring a little bit, and having a bit of a balk at the water jump (we were just trying to walk in- but I think these things are initially a little confusing.  Klondike is perfectly happy crossing running water and streams, but this thing was totally new- not a stream, not a puddle, and you can’t really see the bottom), Allie decided to go grab her horse out of the trailer, as she could provide a lead for the two newbies (Klondike was not the only little chestnut CANTER horse present, cute as pie Indy  (see his listing on the CANTER-owned page) joined us, to show off how fancy he has become).

While waiting for our more experienced trail partner, I hacked him around the front field a little bit, and then decided to point him at the Playskool My First Log jump, conveniently located near the trailers so he was in sight of all his good friends.  Have to say, this little guy is really smart about jumping.  He took a little look, judged the size, and jumped very well without overjumping, like so many greenbeans do.  He went both directions very easily and happily, when I made a crucial mistake.

What I probably should have done at that point was kept him busy, but I decided to reward him for being so stellar by taking a little break and walking around, which is when he realized he was kind of by himself, which was the first thing he’d found worrisome so far that day.  His solution was to go back to the trailer and find his friend, and when I thought that was not necessary, he got a little upset with me.  Which is when I made another mistake.  I have this tendency, when a horse is being slightly unpredictable or nervous, to go defensive- not quite into fetal position, but almost as useless.  I know this doesn’t work, and is in fact the exact opposite of what works, but it’s hard to resist.  The brain is a funny thing, choosing instinct over logic sometimes. 

Somehow we got over the little “wahhhh! I’m alone and don’t want to be!!!!” episode, and kept going.  Fortunately his friend soon joined us, and it was back for a water schooling session.  Klondike watched Indy go in, but was still pretty hesitant about the whole thing, wanting to back up and pretty much tuning me out (that fetal position thing? It’s a killer!).  He eventually ended up more or less getting pulled into the water (thank you, bombproof buddy horse!), at which point, he realized the water was pretty awesome, and super fun to splash around in.

After only about five more minutes in the water jump, Klondike had mastered walking in, walking out, and then going both in and out off the small drop/bank on the other side.  He also threw in several good splashes for measure.  I wasn’t sure what he’d do going down the bank- my experience there is that horses new to this (granted, I’ve only ridden a couple that were new to it, heh), sometimes take a gigantic flying leap, but Klondike is smarter than your average bear, and having been in the water already, figured that he could easily and quietly lower himself down with about as much fuss as he showed hopping in the trailer.

From then on, Klon showed he was a hacking/XC machine- we enjoyed several nice trots and a little canter where the footing allowed, and practiced several more drops.  Again, each time I was prepared for the flying leap, it never came, and he was quiet and easy as pie.  He even mastered the ditch- it wasn’t a big one, but it was filled with water, which again had me anticipating the flying leap.  And again, he could not have cared less.  Walking to the ditch, he simply put a foot down in it and walked through.  Trotting, he just took a big step and barely raised his body off the ground (he’s all about efficiency).

I’m thinking SuperKid is just eerily smart when it comes to obstacles- he judges them and decides exactly what to do from a distance, and seems to always be right about things.  He’s honest as can be- even with Fetal Monkey Girl up there he was happy to give everything a try.  And when he does something right, he knows it- holding his head high and nodding a bit because he’s so proud of himself. 

By the end of the ride, he was even moving into contact much more happily than usual 🙂  And afterwards, he acted like it was old hat to go walking through hordes of children to get hosed off at the wash racks.  Traffic, dogs, strange animals, and miniature people? No problem. 

As a side note, I feel bound to remind everyone that when the weather gets nice, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen. I sort of forgot that, and I have the worst glove lines I’ve seen in a long time. 

 

April 13, 2008 at 4:06 pm 1 comment

Here’s That Cute Canter

So, here’s the little video clip from our Tuesday ride (when I was gushing about his great canter).

Now doesn’t that look great?  Don’t you just want to climb on and try it out for yourself?  Of course you do… *grin*

In any case, I didn’t ride Klon yesterday due to being allergic to springtime in Maryland (trust me, even if you’ve never had allergies before in your life, you WILL get them if you move to MD.)  Without sufficient drugs to make me more comfortable, I opted to just have a nice easy ride on my own horse and enjoy a saunter through the woods.  But SuperKid and I do have a fun week ahead- his other person is going on vacation… which means I get to play My Pretty Pony to my heart’s content.

 

April 11, 2008 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

Houston, We Have a (Really Nice) Canter…

Klondike is cute.  I’ve said it before, but he’s just really adorable.  Yesterday when I went out to get him, he actually came running in, and came straight to me.  Talk about your warm fuzzies- while my brain tells me this is a sign he is spoiled rotten and knows he’s going to get food, it feels nice anyway, and I like to think he’s just really enjoying attention and work and learning.

Yesterday was my first ride on Klondike since he had his chiro/acupunture session, and he felt pretty darn good.  The “teen driver” feeling is going away a little bit, it was easier to keep him in a nice forward trot that was more consistent.  He was still quite wiggly, wanting to drift in off the rail (particularly to the right), but he’s getting better about accepting leg as a “move over” cue, so we were able to negotiate a busy ring without too much difficulty (though Klon would like to say that he’s not entirely sure that little grey fuzzy thing everyone was cooing over was actually an equine, he seemed convinced that the pony was some sort of alien).

He still doesn’t really enjoy the idea of contact at the trot.  He spent most of this time practicing his giraffe impression, sucking me into letting the reins slip through my fingers, and being generally disorganized (it probably doesn’t help that I am generally disorganized to begin with, I suppose).  I think at this point, I have to be a little more consistent with my hands, for us to progress there- I need to work on relaxing the arms and keeping a following contact at all times, so he learns to… well, to deal with it (that and he needs his teeth done, which will be happening soon as well). 

A couple times, I attempted to add leg to try to get a little more walk, or a little more trot.  To a point, he gets this, but I may have goosed him a little, because he broke into a trot or canter (respectively).  The first canter was sort of sewing-machine-ish… probably because I hadn’t actually asked for the canter and he was just reacting to more leg than he usually gets.  Whenever this happened, I let him go for a few strides- I really want to avoid confusing him too much, and want to reward the forward reaction to leg.  I mean, forward is always good- it’s a nice basic response to have (forward is usually the answer for most stuff that goes wrong, it seems- spooky horse? forward. nervous horse? forward. horse that wants to buck/rear/be a pain? forward).  So for the moment, if he breaks into a trot while I’m trying to get a better quality walk, that’s OK.  If I was a more brilliant rider, I might try for more subtlety now, since Klondike is clearly quite smart.  But I’m not.  So happy/pleasant moving forward from leg, for now, is fine with me.  We have plenty of time for more subtle stuff, after all.

Once we got to working at the canter things improved drastically.  This horse just has an AWESOME canter.  It’s comfortable, easy to sit, and after the initial “whee! I’m cantering!” thing, is just wonderfully relaxed and easy.  He makes my own horse feel like a Mac Truck. We worked a little bit on a circle, and the worst thing I can say about it is that he likes to suck back and try to stop when he’s near the gate.  Adding strong leg at key points in the circle helps, though his response is to give a stride or two of a more “leaping” canter (which amused me greatly, to be honest). 

After the canter, we came back to doing trot work, and lo and behold, he actually started reaching down and out a little bit, into the bit, instead of giraffing.  Unfortunately we did not get video documentation of this, but it felt like a big victory.  He might have just been tired, but it felt nice, and when he started stretching, I made sure to make a big fuss over him and how awesome he was.  He’s funny, when you really make a big deal over him, he sort of arches his neck and looks all proud of himself. 

 

April 9, 2008 at 11:40 am 1 comment

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