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Wizard Ride 29: “I AM still a Thoroughbred, you know…”

December 27, 2008

Wizard whizzes past me

Saturday 12/27/08

Ahhh, a little taste of spring in late December. How cruel, Mother Nature! Temps went well into the 60s in NJ this weekend. I wore flip flops and a tee shirt to work on Sunday. But I did have the luxury of riding outdoors under the lights with some of my favorite barn buddies. I’ll trade that for a few cold nights :^)

Before I rode, I helped my friend with some saddle fitting questions with her mare, Mary. They took a quick ride in my old (over 30 years old) Stubben Wotan. That saddle was given to me by my grandma when I was a little kid. I rode in it for years but I sadly outgrew it. It still fits my friend and it looked to fit decently on Mary.

I ride Wizard in a Stubben Portos. My other saddle is a Moritz dressage saddle. It fit Alibar pretty well but it looks to not be shaped right for Wizard. The Portos was a little narrow on Alibar.

I tacked Wizard up and we began our session with hand walking around the arena, followed by a short longeing session (a little less than 15 minutes). Wizard again longed like a champ- quite a far cry from the confusion from Session 17, which was less than a month ago! Wizard is continuing to take contact on the longe line and is responding really well to verbal, whip, and line cues. He’s not completely trained to verbal commands yet but his lengthened (and a bit speedier) trot when I cluck, cluck is pretty impressive!

I’m now able to walk around the arena and plant myself and Wizard does circles wherever I ask. For the first time, I longed him over a ground pole and he took it beautifully. He also longed through a big puddle like a perfect water horse.

I kicked the intensity up a notch and asked him to longe in the far corner of the arena. He slowed down considerably but maintained his trot. He began to creep toward me on the circle so I told him to move out and just tickled him with the lash of the longe whip. That was all the encouragement he needed to have what my friend Cathy calls “a Thoroughbred moment”. He leapt into a speedy canter and bowed out on the circle, pulling on my arm. I simply made the circle bigger and kept him moving. When we were back at our happy working trot, I allowed him to move away from the far corner. Although he was being silly, it felt good to me because I was in complete control the entire time and it did not feel confusing at all. I knew exactly what to do and he came right back to me.

My comment about a “Thoroughbred moment” is playfully said. I’ve known people who owned every breed under the sun and there are similar jokes about them all: Appaloosas have App-Attacks, Arabians become giraffes, etc. In my mind, they are all HORSES and horses tend to turn into horses every once in a while. And if you can calmly guide them back to Earth with a smile and a plan, you get a gold star.

I wish I was so confident in the saddle. I rode for a little under 15 minutes and felt a similar tension from Wizard when I began to think about the trot. We walked in patterns, stepped over ground poles, and worked on our little quarter-turns. But when I started thinking about the trot, my body must have cued him far before I meant to. He’s not nervous, he feels more impatient, like, “time to trot, lady!” I have a feeling that I’m holding back too much and I need to give in and ride through the trot a little more. Each one of these baby steps leaves me teetering on the cliff for a second before I leap to the next level. It’s not for lack of experience- I’ve ridden dozens of horses at a far faster gait than a trot. I think it’s more of a combination of me micro-managing him, worrying about messing him up, and me not having ridden in any meaningful way for almost a year. My friend Sarah said that she’ll be my “eyes on the ground” later in the week. I trust her opinion and her experience. I’ve know her for many years and she’s a beautiful rider, plus she’s the daughter of my former trainer who taught me bunches about jumping and horses in general.

We had two walk to trot transitions and the first one was better than the second. Both were better than the transitions indoors from the ride before. So it’s a little better, but still awkward. I blame myself entirely. Wizard is clearly getting more fit and supple and even his chiropractor said that he’s more than ready for more work.

So I rode for five days straight and he’s getting Sunday off. It was educational to see how Wizard liked it. On the plus side, he became more focused and relaxed (other than his little explosion on the longe) and on the minus side, he seemed less interested in grooming. Since Wizard barely is breathing hard and rarely breaks a sweat, we’re not exactly riding with any serious physical momentum. But it’s mental work and he is getting more supple and responsive. I can also see him getting WAY more graceful on the longe line. He does not look like four giant legs going in four directions anymore. And he can control his pace. The only time he canters on the longe is when he breaks into a canter on his own and I always ask him for a downward transition. I feel like he’s still a little too green for canter work on the longe. Trotting is best for strengthening him, anyway.

So for the next two weeks or so, we have a few plans on the horizon: a visit from the farrier on Saturday (he’s barefoot and I’d like to keep him that way this winter), worming with a Panacur PowerPac, and working on getting a calm and balanced trot/transition under saddle.

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