Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back in the saddle!

Today was a beautiful day, reaching the low 70s in the afternoon. It was warm enough that I actually felt uncomfortable while I was grooming my horse, even though I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt!

Of course, I'm not complaining one bit. The nice weather meant that both pastures were completely dry, except for some lingering snow in the shadow of the barn. As a result, I was able to get a lot done with Panama today — including my first ride in at least two months.

Panama knew what was up — before I haltered him, he watched me carry the saddle over to the hitching post, his head up and his ears pricked. After I groomed him, I turned him loose in the back pasture and chased him around a bit. He had tons of energy, and once he got into a canter he just ran and ran. It clearly made him feel good, too — he was so excited that he trotted right up to me afterward to see what was next.

Before I rode, I took the time to lunge Panama — because it had been a while since I'd ridden, I wanted to check his mood and remind him of his manners. He was reasonably well behaved, so I only lunged him for about ten minutes before getting on.

I kept our ride short, too — only about fifteen or twenty minutes — because both of us are a bit out of shape after several months off. We'll have to build up to longer rides again — today was meant mainly a refresher, which is a good thing because that's what he needed!

One problem we encountered today was that Panama kept mixing up his cues, usually interpreting leg yields as a command to trot. We worked on that for a bit, but luckily it didn't take too long for him to figure it out again. We also worked a little on stopping quickly at the whoa, which is not one of his strong points anyway, but tends to get worse when he hasn't been ridden in a while.

Framing up took some effort for him, because his back muscles aren't as strong as they were. That's another reason why I kept the ride short — I knew if I pushed him too hard, he'd get tired and start ignoring the command to frame up. Then I'd have to either fight a losing battle, or continue riding and inadvertently send the message that it's okay to ignore that command... Much better just to stop when we're doing well!

My trainer has told me that sometimes it's not how long you ride, it's what you accomplish during that time. With that criteria in mind, today was a grand success!

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