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Wizard Ride 30: Moving Right Along

December 29, 2008

Wizard Ponders his Next Spell

Monday, 12/29/08

Before the NJ cold snap, we had a few days of mild (for December) weather. My barn buddies and I took advantage of these days by riding outdoors under the lights in the arena. Although my barn has one of the nicest indoor arenas in the area, I still prefer to ride outside.

After my friend had a short and successful ride on Mary, I turned Wizard out in the arena for a free longeing session. He gets a good amount of turnout time and he plays all day long with his buddy JR but turnout in the arena gives Wizard an opportunity to stretch his legs in very even and safe footing. When I first turned him out, he took off for the far end, trotting with his tail flagged and his head up like a giraffe. He circled for a few laps, taking in the cool night air. The weather was just about to turn cold and he could feel it.

I went into the arena and asked Wizard to move out and that he did! He took off at a gallop, low to the ground, hugging the rail. His tail was still flagged and his nostrils flared as he circled, snorting and frolicking. When he hit certain spots in the ring, he took off even faster, showcasing his Thoroughbred heritage.

I then asked him to circle around me and he listened really well. He actually free longes better than any horse I’ve known, including Alibar. He trots in a true circle around me, without any longe line. He stops when asked. I don’t have a walk yet, but he trots really nicely around me without a longe line.

After he free longed for about 15 minutes, he was barely even breathing hard. He’s getting fitter! His outline is changing slightly as well. His belly looks less round and he moves with more coordination.

We did about 5 minutes of clicker training at liberty. Wizard had not done any clicker work in a few days (I try to put a lot of variety into his routine to keep things fresh) and he was really interested in working (and in carrots!). We worked on targeting. I got a Click Stick for Christmas but unfortunately, Wizard does not seem very responsive to it- I think it’s too small for Wizard to see it right in front of him, especially considering the way that horses’ eyes work.

After our clicker work, I tacked him up and we did a very brief longeing session to work on verbal cues. Wizard is getting much better at verbal commands on the longe line and can walk, trot, and trot faster at my command. Downward transitions are a little more challenging since he likes to stop and look at me when I ask him to slow down. But we’re getting there!

After longeing without side reins (about 5 minutes), I mounted up and rode for about 15 minutes. We walked and did some figure 8s. We are doing circles as well. Since I introduced the trot, Wizard’s walk has become less flat-footed. I think he’s anticipating the trot and it makes us both tense. When he’s tense, he tucks his chin to his chest and bunches up his body. This evasion is particularly effective since I lose a lot of rein! When he’s doing a relaxed walk, my hands are at the end of the laced leather part of the rein but when he bunches up, the reins are a foot shorter.

I tried the neck strap (a stirrup leather around his neck) but it’s too far up his neck to do much good. When we ask for more of a rounded topline, the neck strap might help more.

I asked for three trots: one to the right and two to the left. One of the left side trots was really good and the other two efforts were our usual awkward attempts. Wizard takes about 6 strides to get balanced and while he’s adjusting his body, I cannot keep myself from pulling in on the reins. His neck is SO MUCH higher at the trot than it is at the walk.

After we trotted, Wizard was more tense and it took a little bit of walking and circling to get him relaxed again. He’s not a bad horse, but I know that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m bracing in case he decides to buck or play at the trot. And it’s harming my equitation. We’re still on the brink of our next step forward. I feel like I used to on the high dive at my friend’s lake house. There is a moment of standing there in total denial of moving forward. Then I jump and everything is fine. I just need to jump (and hang on to the neck strap!).

Tonight, my friend is going to ride Wizard and give me a few pointers on my riding. Hopefully that will be the push that I need.

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