Friday, February 8, 2013

A field trip and a fall

Yesterday my trainer and I trailered both horses to her barn -- I am wanting to start showing Panama, and actually want the little girl I nanny for to be able to show on him too, so we decided to start taking him places to test how he'll do and to give him more exposure.  Rondo we brought along for the same reason, although if I do any showing with him this year, the most it'll probably be is showing him in halter at the little schooling show I took Panama to last year.

Panama actually did great, and surprised my trainer a great deal -- she was no doubt remembering what a train wreck he had been at our first attempt at a schooling show, the one at her barn back in June 2010. I was less surprised, having taken him to the two schooling shows last summer -- one we just trailered in, the other we actually competed in -- as well as to the trail course in October, and seen how well he did each time.  (I was also, however, very grateful that he didn't embarrass me by being awful after I'd told her again and again how good he was when we trailered him places last year -- although as she pointed out, he did embarrass me in a completely different way.)

Both Panama and Rondo loaded right up -- a huge achievement for Panama that he can do this when he hasn't trailered for four months, especially considering how terrible he used to be with loading, but not so much of a big deal for Rondo, who has never shown more than a brief hesitation while loading.  When we got to the other barn, Panama stood quietly while tied to the trailer, but Rondo danced a little until I got busy with tacking Pan.  Then we took them into the indoor arena (since it had snowed overnight, the jumping arena was snow-covered and frozen solid), my trainer leading Rondo while I led Panama.

This was Panama's first time in an indoor arena other than his own, and long-time readers of my blog will remember how it took him the entire first winter at our current barn to get over that indoor.  Even knowing how well he did at the schooling shows last summer (which were outside) and Hudson in the fall, how he'd respond to the indoor arena was, in this case, the wild card.  But I was very pleased to find that although he was definitely nervous, he held it together.

My trainer started out by walking Rondo in a big circle on the rail inside the arena, and I decided to do the same with Panama before I got on.  He quickly identified a few things he was nervous about: the red, blue, and white jump standards in one corner, the marks and red lines on the walls, and the mirrors -- but he moved past them when I didn't hesitate.  The only times I felt like he was close to losing control of his fears were a couple of times when Rondo started threatening to rear -- the whole "I know him (even though I don't like him) and he's freaked out, so maybe I should be too" thing.  But again, he followed my lead when I just kept doing what I was doing.

By the time I got on, someone had brought a horse into the indoor on a lunge line, in addition to the one or two other horses under saddle who were already there (it's a big indoor, luckily).  The horse on the lunge line was having a meltdown of epic proportions -- rearing repeatedly, and bucking on the lunge line when her handler did get her moving forward.  Panama thought about freaking out too the first time or two that she did that, but after a little while he stopped reacting to her.  Rondo calmed down too after five or ten minutes -- as my trainer said, "his usual first five minutes" when he tends to be a little frisky -- and Panama and I got to work without much problem.

Like at the schooling show, Panama's default was to slow down when he wasn't sure of something.  This is a completely new behavior for him, as he used to have completely the opposite reaction: Run away first, and ask questions later!  As my trainer said, we like the new behavior better!  It meant I had to keep cuing him at times or he would break into a slower gait, but that was okay.

After some flat work, we started going over ground poles.  He didn't worry too much about this, even though they are clearly different poles -- different colors, different patterned stripes, and different sizes -- than our barn.  That pleased me as well, because one of my concerns is how he will react to different jumps than he is used to when we go to shows.  Unfortunately, toward the end he expressed displeasure about something -- perhaps the noseband, which we only recently started using? or perhaps the repetitiveness of our practice? something -- by putting his head down at the canter.  The first couple times I was able to sit back, ride it out, and keep going, but then my trainer decided my stirrups were too long and shortened them a hole.  The very next time we went over the poles, before I had figured out my balance with the shorter stirrups, Panama did it again, and this time succeeded in pulling me off balance.  I went right down!  And that's how we broke my streak -- it had been a year and a half since my last fall -- and my helmet.  (It's a Troxel, and the adjustment system completely broke off of the one side.)

As my trainer pointed out, I hated the pink helmet anyway (it was the only color in my size and the style I wanted when I bought it), so Panama is just helping me make the decision to get a new one.  Ha!

We were almost done with the lesson when that happened, so when I got back on we only did the poles one more time around, and this time I was much more careful to keep my balance in those shorter stirrups!  Panama was also contrite and didn't try any funny business that time.  Admittedly, I had noticed with the new saddle like the stirrup length -- even though I was still using the same stirrup leathers, on the same exact holes -- felt longer than it had on the all-purpose, but even a hole shorter suddenly felt too short.  I did promise my trainer to practice with the shorter length and try to get used to it, though getting off balance and falling so easily sure scared me!



At February 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, a change in stirrup length changes everything. My legs are longer than my trainer's, but she doesn't want to change the stirrup length if she's only going to go for a quick spin around the arena, but not being able to brace in the stirrups prevented her from doing some things she'd otherwise do. I'm taking it you are okay?

At February 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

I am fine, thank you! I was a little stiff in the lower back this morning, but some ibuprofin and a heating pad fixed that right up, and it never came back! I even hopped on Panama briefly this afternoon before V. rode... more on that in my next blog post.

And yes, my trainer usually leaves the stirrups where they are at, too. She and I are almost the same height, so it doesn't matter for us, but when she hops on V.'s horse to correct a problem, she leaves them where they are. She actually pointed that out to me when she put my stirrups up yesterday, as an example of why I should be able to still ride just fine with my stirrups shorter. She has a lot more experience and is a much better rider than me, though!


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