Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Muddy Mess

Today was beautiful, so I took the boys blankets off this morning. When I went out this afternoon to get Spider ready to work, this is what I found:


Blech! Spider's winter coat is very fine and soft, it holds onto the dust and dirt like nobody's business. I managed to get most of the grime off, but he still looked neglected. Oh well, I got him clean enough to tack up.

I decided on ground driving today. The ground is still messy and I don't want to do much with him, I just want to get his mind working. Since we're still far from skillful on the long lines, it fit the bill quite nicely. We're still working on steering and brakes on the long-lines, so it's not like I was going to ask for anything quicker than walk, anyway.

He was eager to work, which always makes things easier. I was very impressed with how well he started out. With little urging on my part, he took up a nice steady walk and moved forward into a light contact. We halted nicely, then moved froward again. He responded perfectly. We tried a little steering, left and right, and he responded well again. I was happy with his responses, but now what? The object of the exercise was to get his mind working, not bore him to death with stuff he clearly already knows. So, I had him do some figure-eights. It was interesting, and somewhat enlightening.

The first thing I noticed is that the problems he has getting into the right rein in the saddle translate into ground work also. Even without me on his back, he has trouble reaching under with his left hind leg, which translates to slack in the right rein. Although I've always suspected that the problem was his and not mine, it was nice to get some confirmation. Even when I know the problem is with the horse and I have several trainers telling me the problem is with the horse, there is always that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that it might be me causing the problem. A rider can easily block a horse's movement without realizing it, so I always check myself before I blame the horse.

The second thing I noticed is that, while our ground driving at the walk may not have been much of a physical workout for Spider, it was a heck of a workout for me! Spider is 16.2 hands. I am 5'3". The top of his legs is level with the bottom of my ribcage, his shoulder and hip joints are about level with my shoulders. Mechanically speaking, this means that a relaxed, forward walk for him is a brisk trot for me. We ended up working for about 45 minutes. At the end, he was relaxed and happy and I was huffing and puffing. In the end, it was a win-win. He seemed content and I needed the exercise anyway.

1 comment:

  1. I do most of my longlining on the circle because I cannot run with my horses. I was really impressed with my trainer's working Tucker in the lines during a lesson. He ran behind him as they trotted! It was lovely to see.

    Years ago when I learned to line under Lockie Richards, he had me work from behind and since my Russell was pretty well trained at that point, I could walk while he did a collected trot.

    We used the lines to introduce piaffe/passage. I haven't mastered that, but understand the principles. I can get a few steps from Toby, at least.

    Did you ever see the Spanish Riding School? One of the riding masters does a performance with one of the stallions on the lines. It is absolutely beautiful!! Something to aspire to. (and I think he walks even when the horse is cantering....talk about collection!)

    OK, I'll stop now. I had to laugh at Spider's mudbath facial. He surely did a good job getting a full coat, didn't he? *LOL* Gotta love it.

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