Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our Week of Riding

I've been off work since Christmas eve at 2:00 and you know I had to drive straight to the barn to get in a Christmas eve ride. Unfortunately the footing outside was not good so we had to settle for the arena, but that's okay. It was a ride.

G really seems to like the Dr. Cook's bridle. Again, not having a bit in his mouth seems to be one of his main issues. He was always trying to find a comfortable spot, but in most cases would go behind the bit to get rid of the contact. Well, with this rig I have contact and he's happy with it. No trying to duck anywhere. Needless to say this has allowed him to relax more, and in return he is delivering a wonderful 4-beat walk, flat walk AND I got another 4-5 strides of the true running walk I've only ever felt on one Walker. The feel of both the push from the hind and the pull from the front is simply exhilarating! When I asked him to whoa I laid on his neck and gave him another great big hug! Liz really put us on the right track!

I've ridden him three times this week. Mostly in the arena due to the weather, but we've stuck with doing long and low walk work, some shoulder in and fore, and canter departures.
What did Liz tell me? Oh yeah, this kind of work is like "watching paint dry" lol. Yep, some days that's what it feels like, but now I have a clear picture in my mind of the end goal. So if I have to be a little bored, so be it!
When we finish 30-45 minutes, I dismount and we walk to cool down. He still follows me around at liberty, so I'm ready to play some games with him again tomorrow afternoon. I think it will do us both some good. I'm going to ask hubby to build us a pedestal using a truck tire (saw this on a link on the GHS board) cause it looks really sturdy. Main reason why I've avoided this type of work is I didn't want to spend the money for the real deal, and if we built something flimsy and G got hurt or it broke underneath him, that would be the last time we ever attempted somthing like that.

Today I'm giving G the day off to just be a horse and do his thing. It's time to take Ozzy to the vets for a weigh in and to pick up his heartguard medicine. I'm almost afraid to see how much he weighs now as he is becoming a BIG
dog. But he's absolutely gorgeous.

Christmas has come and gone so quickly and a new year is upon us. I hope that 2009 brings us closer to our property in Tennessee, but if not then we'll wish the same again for 2010. We have our health and we have each other and that makes us both happy.

Happy New Year from Kate, Zeke, G, Holly, Buster & Ozzy

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Bitless Bridle

December 15, 2008

Through GHS (thanks ride2glory) I was able to borrow a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle to try with G. Not being a cheap purchase I thought we should play with it for a week and see how he responds to it.

Tonight was the perfect opportunity as we had the arena to ourselves. I spent about 5 minutes on the ground using small pulses on the reins to solicit responses in both directions. He seemed a bit confused at the first request but the light bulb clicked and he remembered how to yield to pressure. I mounted up and he stood quietly while I got myself situated and then asked him to walk on.

We spent the next 10 minutes fine tuning my contact while he got used to the feel. We did some small serpentines off and on the rail and then a few circles. I was real happy with his response so I did a few passes of shoulder in and out and then decided to ask for a flat walk.

So nice! He was so relaxed and seemed truly happy to flat walk along with very little prompting from me. We did this on and off in both directions for another 10 minutes. Flat walk to walk, and transition back up. Okay, things are going nicely. He’s happy and relaxed, he’s breathing in time to his gait and his ears are paying attention to me. On the next long side I asked him to pick it up into the running walk and by George did he ever! I can honestly say I have never experienced the true pull and push of the running walk on G as I did last night. He truly did feel like he was climbing a ladder. It was so exhilarating. After a good 5-6 strides I brought him back to the flat walk, then stopped and I just laid down across his neck and praised the dickens out of him. He was probably thinking “what’s the big deal lady?” I’m just walking!

When we worked with Diane Sept we did have him in a running walk, but not to this degree – a horse definitely needs to be relaxed to hit this gait. Yes I felt his power from the hind, but I didn’t feel the combination of the back and front pushing and pulling at the same time as I did tonight.

I talked to our instructor the other day and on Wednesday we’re going to work on exercises to build his abs and back muscles. We’ll work with cavelettis for one, and maybe some canter transitions. I’m very excited though as I can’t wait for her to see G in forward motion. I do believe we’re finally moving in the right direction after all this time. Of all the things I want, I want G to be happy doing what I’m asking first and then I want him to be a good athlete.

I won’t be running out to buy the Dr. Cook’s bridle quite yet though. We need more time to play with it, and I really want to ride outdoors with him when he’s on high alert to see if he continues to respond so well. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Long & Low

I was able to ride G both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I didn't bother working him with the bit at all, I just tacked him up with his sidepull and dressage saddle.

I took him to the outside track and we spent 15 minutes just walking on a loose rein around the track. We continued working the walk in a long and low head position. You definitely feel the power of his hind end and the rise in his back while doing this. After another 10 minutes I took up contact with the sidepull and asked him to step it up with a kiss - he immediately stepped into a beautiful and relaxed flat walk. No leg or whip needed. The best part was he continued to flatwalk until I asked him to come back down to a walk. Boy does this feel good. I know I probably shouldn't have, but I did ask him for a canter and got a beautiful lift and after three strides I brought him back to a walk. We walked the oval and I asked him again at the next corner. Again, a beautiful lift on the correct lead. So after 4 strides back to a walk. Now what a flat walk. He definitely strides better after doing a few of walk to canter transitions. I assume it's because he's now engaging his hind end AND he's more relaxed. Whatever it is, I'll take it.

I am delightfully amazed at how responsive he is to my seat cues. Liz did say that the order of aids should be seat & legs and then rein if needed. I've been so busy with "contact" that I haven't felt what else was going on. So this is definitely a wonderful exercise for me and a pleasant break for G I'm sure.

Sunday it was rainy and drizzly so we rode in the arena. We spent the first 15 minutes doing long & low work, doing serpentines and 20 meter circles. Walk, walk, walk and lots of it. After the first 30 minutes I asked for him to step it up and he did. Again, with much more impulsion and enthusiasm. I truly believe he is happy without having to worry about the bit. I know I don't have busy hands. I don't even think I have hard hands, but I do think after these few sessions that I can learn to be lighter in my feel and I believe that G will be able to regain his softness as well.

I just know we're on the right track now.