Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Massage For Rogo, and Second Level Is 'Hatching' :)

Poor Rogo hasn't been getting his due, either in writing or riding (by me). I don't want to miss this part of his development, so I better get it down.
We've been having some great rides lately, as second level gaits begin to emerge. I haven't ridden above first level before, so it's all new to me, as it is to Rogo. I'm filled with wonder and awe at seeing new gaits and movements begin to appear, almost as if by magic. I sometimes think I get how a horse is trained to walk, trot, canter. Turn, halt and rein back. What is truly amazing is the way the training can just keep growing, and growing and growing. I wouldn't trade this experience for a higher level horse any day. Participating in his development isn't to be missed. I wonder if this gets old to trainers who've trained many horses, or if it always maintains a trace of magic?
Here are some of the things that have come up recently, and the observations I'd make about them:

Rogo Gets His First Massage

Rogo had a two hour deep body massage, from a well known therapist, Allen, who flew in from Alberta (the full name escapes me - this was done at Sue Fraser's barn where he's in training and I wasn't there when it happened). I was cynical going in, but now I'm a believer. Although Rogo had been going well and wasn't overtly sore anywhere, Allen diagnosed that the right side of Rogo's back was sore. He said either the saddle wasn't right or I was really weighting the right side too much. Well, that struck a chord. As I mentioned in the past, I have something on the ball of my right foot called Morton's Neuroma. It's an incredibly painful 'ball' of nerves (currently the pain is under control thanks to a cortisone injection). To make a long story short I do weight my right stirrup far too much, and I think it's caused Rogo a sore back and me a sore foot. I'm very good a disguising this to the naked eye though - if you look at me I look nicely straight in the saddle. I know this from mirrors and also because various very good instructors don't mention to me to stop weighting the right foot. As a matter of fact, it's never come up in a lesson from anyone, despite the fact I literally bear down on it at times (I'll realize I'm doing it when the pain in the ball of my foot on the stirrup gets unbearable). The weighting doesn't translate to leaning. I'm very good at putting my weight solidly into my right seat bone and down into my stirrup, while sitting perfectly straight :).
The good news? After the treatment Rogo was beautifully forward (he's been forward again for a while, but this was even better). Also, he's been difficult to get into the outside rein when doing should in on the right rein, but after the treatment he was much improved. This still needs lots of practice to be 'perfect', but it is coming. Another improvement was suppleness / ease of bending on the left rein (he's always bent more easily to the right). I'm thinking that if I'm weighting the right side most of the time, then he gets conflicting messages when making a turn on the left rein - the reins are saying go left, the inside leg is even 'on' in the sense I lay it against his side, but the outside seat bone and stirrup are weighted, saying turn right. This would explain a lot of issues we've had.
One last observation about our post treatment ride - the 10 m canter circles were wonderful. By turning my body and looking where I was going, and with Sue constantly reminding me to stay off my right stirrup, he'd do lovely 10 m circles almost from just my seat and legs. 

OMG, I Think This Is Collection
On one recent ride, we were practicing 10 m canter circles, and as we came off the circle and onto the wall to continue down the long side I mentally prepared for him to try to surge ahead. He always gets stronger as he straightens for the long side and I waited for this to happen, but it didn't. I know I'll look back on this and cringe with embarrassment, and wish I hadn't written it, but I want to be honest too in remembering this experience - I didn't know what was happening. He lightly stayed in exactly the same tempo, with the exact same small length of stride, as he'd had on the 10 m circle. I was thinking "should I kick him forward", "why is Sue saying very good when we seem to be stalling", and so on. Pushing him forward didn't seem to be the thing to do, because it wasn't laboured. It was slower than I'm used to on a straight line, and the strides were small, but it was light and easy and bouncing - no pushing required. Dare I say it? I was almost to the end of the arena when I thought "OMG, we're doing a collected canter!". Of course he's been able to lengthen and shorten in the canter for a while now, but that's not the same. Now he's learning to use his hind quarters, and developing the strength to use them, and it's a beautiful thing :). To do this I need to remember to quietly and consistently continue my light half halts, in time with his rhythm, as we come out of the circle.

I'm Down to Riding Once A Week :(
This is the least I've ever ridden since I came back to riding seven years ago. The facility we're building is taking so much time, I can only get down for a lesson once a week (it's 1.5 hours each way). Until now Rogo had only been ridden a handful of times by anyone but me. Now he's in training with Sue. It will be good for him, but I miss him like crazy. It will be worth it in the end though, because when the facility is finished he'll move there and I'll be with him all the time. This was the only way to get a a good indoor and good lessons close to home.

And that's a good segue into my next post. I want to update you on the facility and the events we have booked already for this summer. I hope you won't think I'm going commercial on my personal riding blog. Almost all my readers are too far away to attend our events anyway. I just want to tell you about the facility and what's happening, because it's strongly tied to this blog and also because I've come to feel I 'know' many of you who I comment back and forth with and I want to tell you about it.

A final note - I got several spam comments after my last post. If it happens this time too I'll have to initiate comment moderation, but never the hated word verification! I wonder why spam filtering isn't working...