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JR Session 18; Wizard Ride 62: On Your Knees

March 23, 2009

Mud Skipper

Sunday, 3/22/09

I heard from the saddle fitter and she’s hoping to be able to schedule an appointment to adjust my saddle very soon- hooray! In the meantime, training has not ceased for JR. I started our session with work on long lines. For those who are unfamiliar with the process of long lining, check out this link. I’m about a million times more boring as I wander around the arena with a wiggly green horse, but the link gives you an idea of what you can do with long lining. With JR, we’re only walking at this point- he occasionally jogs and then settles back to a walk. The long line work is good for him to learn the driving aids. I’m working him in a cavesson until he’s a little more experienced and then I can try the bit.

I long lined JR for 10 minutes and then longed him. Today, we used the entire arena (100×200!). I moved the circles as JR worked so that he started at the bottom of the arena and ended at the top. I’m gaining more lateral control over him. He still has that gravitational pull to the gate, but I learned today that a little give-and-take on the line as he goes through the “magnetic” part of the circle really keeps his “birdie” on me on the longe line and not at the arena door.

JR is showing more rhythm and relaxation in his trot. Occasionally he feels the need to remind me that he’s a green youngster, like when he did a 180 degree spin at the canter and bolted in the opposite direction when he saw a break in the arena wall. The little guy has quite a pirouette on him :^) I’ve increased canter work with JR on the longe and now we’re doing more than a few rotations. His balance is improving at all gaits. When we finished longeing, I turned him loose and let him stretch his legs: buck, leap, fart, leap. I cooled him out and put him to bed.

Today was the first day I’ve ridden Wizard without Ulcergard in a few weeks. I decided to use today as a test to see if I need to go back to administering a dose before each ride or not. I did not see a big difference under saddle, but I saw a difference while I was grooming him. He was touchier and more irritated than normal- he did not make contact, but he nipped in my general direction I brushed his side. He also lifted a leg when I brushed near his belly. Is he touchier without ulcer meds? I shall continue my experiments.

My friend Kris visited the barn today. I’ve known her since 1997- she’s a friend from college. She always loved horses but has gotten more serious about her hobby in the past year or so. In two weeks, she will begin leasing her first horse. I’m really happy for her. And it’s a lot of fun to have a crazy horse friend who understands the joy of the latest Dover Saddlery catalog and enjoys visiting the barn during my crazy night owl hours.

While I was tacking up Wizard, I showed off Wizard’s carrot stretching abilities to Kris. Side to side, Wizard flexed his bendy neck. Then, we did the bowing carrot stretch. Wizard began the bow as usual, arching his neck, lifting his topline, lowering his head. Then, he bent his front legs and… WHOAH! Wizard was on his knees and just about lying down in the barn aisle. I helped him back up and checked him for any injuries. Aside from rumpled hair on his knees, he was fine. I tried the bow one more time, and WHOAH! On his knees again. What the heck was going on??? I brought him in the arena so I could watch him move out and see if anything looked out of the ordinary.

I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I worked on the same exercises with Wizard as I did with JR and I walked up and down the whole arena with Wizard circling me. Left and right at the trot, he was very good. I did a spiraling exercise on the longe and Wizard was a champ. Then, I stepped up the difficulty level and we did the arena exercise at the canter :^) To the left, Wizard was fabulous- I don’t think he broke stride more than once. To the right, it was much more difficult for him. He broke stride a few times but he kept trying and eventually his rhythm and balance improved. As we moved back to the gate end of the arena, he broke stride several times and began stopping a few times. Once he successfully cantered one last rotation on the correct lead, we were done. The canter work is much more of a workout for Wizard- he does not break a sweat at the trot but the canter is more mentally and physically taxing. He’s come a long way!

I rode for about 15 minutes, working at a walk and a trot. Since it was late at night, I used the under-saddle work as a cooldown. We did a lot of walking on the buckle and a lot of relaxing trotting. He was great to the left and a little more tense to the right (as usual). I got several good little stretches- not exactly a stretchy circle, but he definitely loosened his topline. I was able to trot him on a slack rein in each direction. After Wizard was cooled out, I put him to bed with a tub of Dengie.

As I drove home from the barn, it occurred to me why Wizard ended up on his knees in the barn aisle: the shoes! I do the side-to-side carrot stretches before almost every ride but I have not done the bowing stretch in a while. The last time Wizard did the bow, he was barefoot. The poor guy had no traction when he tipped his toes forward as he bowed deeper. It was a slow-motion thing and I think he was simply sliding. And then he even did it again for me when I asked the second time! He’s such a sweet, willing horse. I’ll be sure to only ask for carrot stretches on dirt from now on. Or as Kris suggested, I can purchase a yoga mat for Wizard.

Wizard

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