Sunday Stroll

Jameson has been progressing nicely in her exposure to life as my future dressage super horse (positive pony affirmation).  We have been cruising through the neighborhood to get over to Lorrie’s for a few months.  However, the shortest way there includes a narrow street side trail with barking dogs, a downed tree, and bridge over a stream frequented by birds.  This bridge has been a sticking point since we started.  My rule has been, you can stop but no turning or backing up.  We have sat there for thirty minutes at times before Jameson decided either it was safe, or she was going to starve to death if she waited any longer.  Jameson decided death by starvation was worse than facing a bridge troll.

ogre_under_the_bridge_by_vegasmike

Recently, we took Rattlesnake Canyon.  It is a short, scenic, zigzagging trail, hence the name. It  connects to streets on either end and is a way to pick up other trails or the park systems. After getting to the top, we took the road back down home. So, we have been getting some experience with trail and street conditions.

What we needed was an outing with a solid trail companion.  (Sorry, Huey. No need to apply.)  My long time friend, Trish, and the retired hunter she rides, Lauren were up to the job. With the excessive heat even by SoCal standards, we set a time for the evening, but changed to a morning ride while it was still early and even some overcast.  I was to leave from my house and she from the barn where Lauren lives, and we would meet on the trail on OPA boulevard.  This meant I would need to go through the S curve and over the bridge with the troll.  We hadn’t been over the bridge in almost a month as the tree was being removed and someone else was replacing their fence.

Jameson set out quite fresh. It was cool (relatively), and I have been limiting her exercise and turn-outs due to the heat. While a bit bouncy, Jameson was still quite manageable.    As we approached the bridge, dogs barked, Jameson’s ears flicked, but she never slowed a step.  Before the troll even woke, we were over and on our way!

As we turned on to the street to meet Trish, a car slowed to a stop, the driver jumped out of her car and asked to take pictures of Jameson.  A great opportunity for us to practice just standing, and well, she is just so pretty!  After passing another friend with her group of students on trail, we met up with Trish and Lauren.  What became apparent  quickly, was Jameson motored right along while Lauren also had her own speed. No faster than she deemed necessary.  It resembled a stroll. While Jameson’s pace was more like a power walker.  The good part was neither horse was anxious about the growing separation.  Of course, I took the time to practice turns, stops, and just standing.

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Our trail angels- Trish and Lauren

Then came the water crossing! We have not attempted this previously, because it is all concrete, has a short down ramp, a crossover with water flowing over the elevation change, and another ramp up. At this time of year the crossover is only a few inches. However, it you go off the side it is concrete and rocks. Further down it is a dirt stream but deeper with uncertain footing.  (I did have a horse, not mine, fall off the side with me and the water was deep enough then for some swimming in riding boots. But that is another story.)    To keep this as much of a non issue as possible, we had Lauren walk up next to Jameson and cross.  Jameson started down the concrete, then stopped. It took a minute of contemplation, a bit of encouragement, followed by tentative steps, and then we were over. I did feel us being drawn to the rocky drop-off, but a little more left leg and she straightened her course.  I was happy with the little stress and no drama.

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Looking back on our accomplishment!

The rest of the ride was a pleasant blend of up  and down hills, some neighborhood streets and good conversations! At the end, we split off to our own places and Jameson took the troll bridge like a rock star before completing our 2 hour ride.  It’s not Tevis, but a great learning ride in its own right.

Enjoy the ride- I am!

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Building an Arc

It was’t really forty days and forty nights.  It felt like more!  Winter brought record setting rains to Southern California.  With the rain came spring, and more rain.  The flooding and saturated grounds were a problem in our stall at Lorrie’s.  So, I brought Jameson home.  Ready or not.  Fast forward- It’s summer and I have started Jameson under saddle.  It’s not all rainbows, but she is progressing nicely and is fun to be around.

“It’s the control of the feet through the mind that a person [should be] after. If you’ve missed that on the ground, [from] the start, why you’ve missed the part that means the most to the horse. The person should be focused on getting the best possible connection with the horse on the ground – through feel – if they want to have those parts of the horse available to them when they ride.” – Bill Dorrance

Regardless of  the riding style, I believe there are many things all horses should learn. Proper bending is one of them.  Some people become confused when talking about bend and arc. A bend becomes an arc when the horse is put into motion in the direction of the bend with self-carriage.  Driving into the arc is the secret to success.  Back to front. (Thank you Sarah Rolston for the succinct definition.)

 

(Disclaimer: This is the part where I reiterate, I am not a trainer.  I read, ride, and study.  I am just sharing what I am currently using in my equestrian tool bag.)

Starting from the ground,  Jameson learned about bend. First from the ground we worked on yielding her shoulders, haunches,  picking  up her abdomen,  going forward, sideways, and back.  I need my aids to be consistent for her to learn.  I want to ride what she has learned.  Therefore,   I must have the same conversation on her back as on the ground.

Shaping – If I can gently rub with my hand up the girth area and have Jameson give me her eye (bend),  then same aid from the saddle should yield the same results.  Besides the beginnings of bend and ultimately arc, this is a useful skill.  If my horse becomes distracted in the ring or on trail,  a little touch helps get her back without pulling on her face.

I’d be lying if I said this works all the time.  Since Jameson is only three, conversations need reinforcing.  And it is the conversations that helps reinforce leadership, rain or shine.

 

biomechanics of bend
Great Diagram!

As always, enjoy the ride!