Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rondo doesn't bat an eye, and bareback pays off

I've had a pretty busy week, and until yesterday it was looking like I wasn't going to ride between lessons.  I hate going a whole week between lessons without riding, but I was too busy, too hot, too something all weekend until Tuesday came around — and then Panama had another huge, swollen bite, this time where I couldn't ride at all without irritating it.  But that was okay — I just did a little desensitization work, and called it a night.

Yesterday was another horsey hump day.  I started out the day by heading down to the in-laws' house to work with Rondo.  My mother-in-law and I had to walk to the far end of the pasture to catch him, and then I had to play a little cat-and-mouse to get him haltered — he wanted to stay and graze, and made his preference clear.  When he ran from me and the halter, I slapped it against my leg and chased him a few steps — and with that, he seemed to recall what happened the last time he ran from the halter.  He stopped, looked over his shoulder at me, and let me approach — and though he fussed a bit when I haltered him (I have to say I've been totally spoiled by a horse short enough that he can't lift his head out of my reach!) he quit when told and followed me back up to the barn without any balking.

Grooming was quite a success.  Picking the back feet is still a little touchy — he fusses occasionally, but only briefly, and then we get the job done.  But the real miracle was when I pulled out the fly spray.  I haven't sprayed him down in a couple of weeks, ever since I was able to spray the whole horse.  I was worried that I'd waited too long, and he'd have forgotten — but by his behavior yesterday, you would think he'd never had a problem with fly spray at all!  The muscles in his belly jumped a bit when I sprayed there, but that was IT.  No threatening to rear or kick, not even putting his head in the air like he did last time.  Wow!

We finished up with a little lunging — I'm still trying to convince him to trot when I say trot, though I'm not sure anymore whether he's not getting it or just doesn't want to.  I suspect it's a little of both — he seems to get it faster when I "trot" along with him, but I think there's also a bit of draft horse sluggishness in him that I'll have to work around.  It's a big difference from Panama — who, when he was first learning, if we said "Trot," he said, "How fast?"

After spending the afternoon and early evening with my in-laws, I went straight to the barn as soon as I got to town.  I like following up a visit down there with a ride on Panama, as if I'm reminding myself that Rondo won't be a baby forever (or of how far Panama has come).  It was my first time in a long time riding in the evening without my husband there, so I had to figure out how to turn lights on and off with a horse in tow (the arena lights are in the lounge, where the horses can't go).  Turned out he was pretty amiable — I just left him inside the arena at the gate with his reins hung over the rail, and he stood there patiently and waited for me.

I'm getting much better at trotting bareback, and that microsuede pad sure helps — I'm borrowing this one, but I've got one on order for myself.  It also has the tacky underside, so it doesn't move on him, either — AND it's small enough in the girth to fit my little horse (who only weighs in at about 750 on the weight tape).  I can now trot several laps around the arena without getting tired or starting to feel like I've been kicked in the crotch repeatedly with cleats.

I've been riding bareback almost every time for the past week and a half, maybe 2 weeks, and it's sure paid off — I rode in the saddle for my lesson today, and my trainer was full of compliments.  She wants me to start cantering without stirrups and bareback, which scares the bejeezus out of me, so we compromised and I cantered with only one stirrup.  Even that much made a difference — my butt stayed in the saddle better, and I felt more secure than I was expecting, even in the transition (which is where it worries me the most).  I'm planning on practicing that in the next week, as well as the bareback work, and maybe soon I'll be able to move to cantering in the saddle without stirrups — all with the ultimate goal of being able to canter bareback eventually, too.  (I want to do this not just because it seems to be good for my position, but also because I like riding bareback.  It's fun.)

All in all, a really satisfying couple of days!

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