I Think I'm On To Something

I had a great day at the barn yesterday. I spent most of the day there. First I free longed Rogo and Savanah together - put on some upbeat music and put out ground poles. They get along well, although Rogo felt he had to pretend he was herding her around the arena and over the poles. She's very tolerant of the youngster :). She is so pretty doing ground poles, almost passaging. Maybe it's the draft influence but she really lifts her knees and has tons of power and action in her movement as she goes through them. Perhaps not a good look / movement for all breeds, but she is quite striking. They both enjoy ground poles, but it's the first time I've done them together. They really had fun (or seemed to be having a horse version of fun). In keeping with my discovery the last time I worked Rogo over ground poles, I ran along with them. What a workout! Wow. It did me in, but I hate exercise so finding something fun to do with the horses that also burns calories and builds strength (in addition to riding) is a bonus. They seem to like it when I do this too - it's all a big game. I'm on to something! Next I need to put out ground poles for me :)
Just as a quick aside, they have done ground poles together once before. I was longing Rogo (on the longe line) in our riding ring at home and hadn't put Savanah in the barn (Dan gets locked up when we work other horses). I know it isn't strictly safe to longe with another horse around, but I know them really well and it was fine. On this occasion Savanah stood just outside the perimeter of the circle watching intently as Rogo circled. There were cavelleti set up down one side and I steered him over there. As she saw where I was going she headed right over and trotted through the ground poles behind him. She stayed with our routine for a little while, trotting around behind him on her own, and then wandered off. She is such a cutie pie.
After free longing the two of them I rode Rogo. We worked on trying to keep a good connection through transitions and it wasn't too bad. He's still at the stage, or just getting through it, where he might raise his head during a transition but yesterday he didn't. And I'll be doomed to dressage hell for saying this, but for awhile now he's been 'even'. What I mean is that he bends and responds the same on both sides. Left had been lagging since I started him. Gee, could it have anything to do with me realizing I wasn't weighting my left seat bone and then working at fixing it? I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't even clicked into this change in him until a few days ago and connected it to getting balanced myself. I'm thinking that it is probably normal for one side and the other to get better / worse as work progresses (but not for the rider to get lop sided lol), but we're in a good place in that regard for our current training.
We did canter transitions, which are getting more precise and engaged. There is something happening with his canter though, and I need to ask Joan or Cheryl about it. He's had / has a nice working canter. The change started when I started working on circles in the indoor - I felt a very distinct engagement of the hind quarters and lifting of the forehand (quite nice) as he'd come onto the circle. The indoor is smallish, but 20 m wide, so we do 20 m circles and sometimes 15 m. He now often canters with more hind quarter engagement and elevation in the forehand even when he isn't on a circle. I think my riding is the same. It may be because the indoor is smaller. But where before he'd canter round and round the arena effortlessly, now what often happens is that he does this more engaged canter, we do a circle, we come off the circle, he continues on, and about half way around the arena there is a distinct 'falling' on the forehand, even though my aids don't change, and then of course he loses his balance and trots within a few strides. Having never started a horse before I don't know if this is a normal stage as he gains strength in his hind quarters and starts to balance himself over them more, but can't carry it for too long, or if I'm doing something wrong in my riding and interfering with his natural movement. My contact is quite light I think, and I'm not doing anything different to ask him to engage more. I've always loved his canter so I sure don't want to wreck it. As I said, I'll ask my teachers next time I ride with them so they can see what's going on, but it just recently started to be a pattern so I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts or has experienced anything similar?
I practiced a little sitting trot with him and we did some leg yield (slowly coming) and a few steps of shoulder in. His halt, after being good for the last while, slipped a bit. He didn't want to stand after he halted :( No big deal. I may leave it for a few days. All told we worked together for about an hour and a half, so it was a good, hard workout, but lots of fun, at least for me.
Next I free longed Dan over poles. What a ham he is. His first time around he leaped over all three in one gigantic spring. I've never seen him do this, so I had a good laugh. After that he settled in and did them well. Jen is coming to ride him tomorrow and spend the day at the barn so it will be fun to see her.
I had a good long gab today with one of the woman on my dressage club board. She's a great teacher and gave me some really good warm up ideas. They fit very well with the warm up I wrote up last week, which is still a little challenging for Rogo, so I think I'll revise it and incorporate some ideas from the conversation today. I can't wait to get to the barn tomorrow. Life is good!


Savanah sounds like such a neat horse :)

What a wonderful day you had. Rogo is really coming along. It's amazing how getting ourselves even and balanced makes such a difference with our horses.

I found some ground poles buried under brush on my property recently. I'd like to begin working with them. Do you have any advice about how far apart they need to be when I set them up?

Thanks Carol.
Achieve1dream said…
Sounds like a fun, productive day. :) I've never started a horse in dressage before so I can't give any advice. Your trainers will probably be able to help you with it. The canter sounds absolutely fantastic though. :)
Jeni said…
great day!!! To lift the back and engage the hind quarters with a rider at the canter takes a lot of strength for the horse. He's giving you a beautiful canter and carrying as long as he can. As he get's more comfortable moving in that manner the amount of time he can carry it should improve.

See what your instructors have to say too just to make sure you are not doing some tiny little thing that is attributing to him falling on he forehand.
Oak Creek Ranch said…
If he continues having difficulty carrying weight on his hindquarters, you might want to have his hocks checked. That was the big clue with Jackson -- he all of a sudden kept falling on his forehand after always having a strong engine in the back. Hock soreness also radiates into the back causing pain there too so check that as well. Hopefully, its just a strength issue. I love the story of them in the arena together when you were lunging Rogo. Savanah is a sweetie for sure.
juliette said…
That story of Rogo and Savanah lunging (today and that other time) is just adorable. You sure have two wonderful horses, Carol! You crack me up playing the music and exercising with them in the indoor. Good for you! I think you could market that as a new and exciting exercise craze!
I am glad Rogo is getting even now. As you say, maybe it is you who is weighting each side evenly now. We alter them so much with just a little shift - I always find that amazing - through the saddle and saddle pads Pie responds to the tiniest cue.
I hope you get the canter sorted - I am sure you will!
That is funny about you hiding apples for your Labs. I think Pie is an overgrown black Lab looking for his "snack station" at every turn!
I love the story of Savannah lunging herself with Rogo. And I think the picture of all three of you exercising over ground poles to music is a wonderful image. Sounds like a fun way to get some schooling and exercise combined. Dan sounds like a character too.

I'm not a trainer so I wouldn't even try to give advice. I'm sure you and your instructors will work things out perfectly.
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Jan said…
Carol, What a great day you had! Oh, it is so funny to imagine Savanah the day she just joined in with your longing session - how cute! And Dan, just leaping over the poles! Too funny! Rogo had a good day also. So interesting how he is using his hindquarters at the canter- that sounds really good! I'm sure your instructors will offer some suggestions, but it sounds like a good development. Great work all around!
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