Friday, August 19, 2011

Another lesson in the outdoor arena

For yesterday's lesson Panama and I rode in the outdoor arena again.  It was HOT yesterday — we were supposed to possibly break heat records for the day, though I didn't check to see if we did.  But by late morning, it was already getting pretty hot, especially in a big sandy arena.

For the most part Panama was much quieter yesterday than he was last week.  I think some of it may have been the timing — he seems to be quieter if I ride a few hours after mealtime, and antsier if I ride right before a meal (or, heaven forbid, while his pasturemates are eating).  We usually have our lesson around late morning, but last week it was at dinnertime, so he hadn't eaten yet — and he could see his pasturemates eating without him, which probably didn't help his mood any.  Yesterday we were back to our normal time.

We didn't do anything on lead changes, just practiced cantering and maintaining a constant speed in the outdoor arena.  Going to the left, my trainer had me working on trying to get Panama not to lean into the turns all the time — we were doing a half-arena circle, and he was just leaning more and more, so that I was sitting rather cockeyed in the saddle in order to stay balanced.  My trainer was trying to get me to correct my position and use my inside leg so that he wouldn't be so likely to lean like that, but it's obviously going to take some practice.

In the other direction, the direction he usually leans a lot, we cantered the full arena, which is probably why we didn't have any issues with leaning.  Instead, he was rushing down the straight side that faces toward his corral — running toward "home," as he likes to do.  Part of it was my position, and my trainer was correcting that going this way as well — she says I'm not keeping my back straight enough, and I'm leaning forward when he goes faster.  The other part of it was pure timing — he tends to slow down going around the narrow end of the arena, so I'm having to keep my legs on so that he doesn't break to a trot.  As soon as we get around the turn, however, he speeds up — a lot — and unless I'm ready to half-halt him right away, he gets away from me and it's not until the next turn that I can get him to slow down again.

I finally got him to do a couple of laps without speeding up, and two things that seemed to make a difference were keeping my heels down and forward, and being ready to half-halt him right as we came out of the turn (right where he usually starts to speed up).  If I can remind him right there not to speed up, he seems to do much better at maintaining a constant speed down the straight side of the arena — but it seems so counter-intuitive, because it's literally a couple of seconds after I've put my legs on to keep him in a canter.

It's funny, but I am definitely starting to think that Panama "tests poorly" — he doesn't do as well under pressure, just like a student taking a test.  Lessons tend to be higher pressure for me, but I think they are for him too, because my trainer expects a lot out of both of us.  But last Friday and Tuesday, when we rode outdoors and just had a nice, relaxed time, he hardly rushed or leaned at all.  I definitely thinks he has some anxiety during lessons, and I have to think about whether there is anything I can do to help him with this.



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