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Wizard Ride 131: If It Feels Good, Do It

April 5, 2010

Monday, 4/5/10

On account of the evening’s Keeneland April 2010 Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, I had a free morning on a gorgeous spring day. Naturally, I went to the barn and rode. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and Alibar’s memorial pear tree was in bloom.

I free longed Wizard for about 5 minutes, a quick walk, trot, and canter in each direction. He looked good- his coat is glossy and he is becoming more muscular. We tacked up in the barn and I mounted up and rode in the large outdoor arena for about 20 minutes. The footing is deeper outdoors than it is indoors so I was mindful of not straining him and we mostly worked on straight lines and very large (20 meters+) circles.

Interestingly, Wizard did not pin his ears at all at the walk outdoors. The only time he pinned them was when he thought the ride was over and I asked for one more trot set. Again, I ignored it and it went away. We might be onto something here :^)

We did three trot sets, broken up by walking. I asked for two leg yields in each direction at the walk and he responded better than he did the day before. At the trot, he was energetic but very soft, stretching beautifully into the bit. He seems to enjoy carrying his head low so we play little contact exercise games at the trot, allowing him to stretch down, and push into the bit, and stretch down again.

The large arena was a nice change of scenery for us since we’ve been mostly indoors for our last few rides. The arena is about 100ft x 200ft so there is a LOT of space to ride and move out a little. I practiced getting into my jumping position a few times at the trot and allowed Wizard to move out a little.

After our arena ride, we hit the trails. There are ALREADY flies in the woods. Wow, they did not waste time, eh? In order to get to a newly-cut trailhead, Wizard had to walk over a few large hoses that were attached to a big pump. He balked at first, but I asked again and he complied. We rode out on the trail for about 40 minutes.

Two of my barn buddies recently moved to a new farm where they have immediate access to one of the nicest state parks in New Jersey. The other day, they both sent jubilant texts to me about their escapades on the trail. Inspired by their adventures, I asked Wizard for a trot on a straightaway on the trail. For the first few steps, he bounced anxiously, but then swung into a really enjoyable trail trot, full of pep and light on the bit. I have only ever walked Wizard on the trails so this was a BLAST for both of us. Wizard purred excitedly and maintained his pace better than I anticipated. We trotted through some muddy patches, over sticks, up and down little slopes.

We approached a sandy hill and I could feel Wizard rounding up into a canter. I channeled Sarah’s lessons from last spring and went with it and allowed the canter. If it feels good, do it. It was right so I went with it. For the first few strides, he was really springy and he felt unbalanced but then we got in stride with each other and he cantered for just a short stretch. Wow, it felt good to canter! Moving out on the trails took me back to all the fun times I had on hunter paces with Alibar. There is nothing like a fun trail ride.

When we got to a sandy clearing with a blind corner, we walked. I felt Wizard get verrry tall and tense. I spotted a flock of wild turkeys in the bushes. I could feel Wizard’s heart pounding through my legs. I explained to him that they were turkeys and that we were going to walk past them, not toward them. He gamely responded and we passed them without incident.

We trotted down a sandy road toward our nemesis, The Pigpen. Without another human or equine companion, I did not know how Wizard would react, but we were both so confident that I felt good trying it. He held his breath and I gently guided him past. He was tense, but did not place a foot wrong. Wow, we’re ready to take over the world!

Wizard and I crossed the street and rode through the back trails. We trotted for a long straightaway and again I felt a canter coming on so I went with it. It was delightful. Wizard’s canter is a little quick, but it is light- not at all lopey. I can feel a lot of power when he canters. During the ride, we cantered a total of three times. One stretch was for a pretty good length of trail. We powered back down to a trot through a hilly spot and when we got to the final leg of the trail, I asked for a walk. Wizard’s walk was the walk of a horse who felt really good. It reminded me of how Alibar used to feel after a jumper round, neck arched, spring in his step.

The two videos in this blog post (not the Sloan video, ha ha) are of our last leg home. We were enjoying the warm air and the gentle breeze. This trail ride was the best ride I’ve ever had with Wizard. After all this time, money, and effort, it really feels good to enjoy the results.

On the way to the barn, I walked Wizard on the road for a little while, listening to the clip-clop of his shod hooves on the blacktop. I can’t help but wonder just how much of this great riding streak is due to the shoes. I guess time will tell.

When we got home, I gave him a quick bath to get the sweat and mud off of him, and gave his legs a good rubdown. If he feels anything like me, he is tired and happy.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2010 8:20 pm

    He looks as happy as a clam on the trails!!

  2. April 6, 2010 1:01 am

    “Interestingly, Wizard did not pin his ears at all at the walk outdoors. The only time he pinned them was when he thought the ride was over and I asked for one more trot set. Again, I ignored it and it went away. We might be onto something here :^)”

    even negative attention is attention. I’d give it 2 weeks and see if ignoring it reduces the number or length of the ear pinning incidents. That’s only 14 days would only be the beginning of a habit but it’s still long enough to tell you if the behavior is changing.

    • April 6, 2010 10:19 am

      Sounds like a great plan to me, Holly. Fingers crossed that it works out.

      I totally agree about negative attention still being attention- some people I know have a horse who bangs on his stall door with his knee. They holler at him every time and the habit is worse now.

  3. April 6, 2010 11:56 am

    “and the habit is worse now.” re: negative attention….

    this is a concept that is so hard to get through to many people. Parents do it all the time with kids.

    My mare had a horrible pawing-on-the-crossties issue. It drove the barn owner crazy, the other boarders would yell at her and it did nothing. I finally convinced her to quit with it in 3 tried with my bucket of treats and clicker, less than 20 minutes. I had to really think about what I was going to do though…so even for trainers who are very aware of behavior, it isn’t always easy.

  4. Sadie Kenyon permalink
    April 8, 2010 11:44 am

    Sarah…I have been following the Camelot auctions online. Keep up the good work!
    I love your blog!

    Now to the clicker training! I LOVE IT! I had some food agression issues with a very young colt (he’ll be a year at the end of this month). I would fight and fight with him…Untill someone introduced me to the clicker. I had a very hard time ignoring the bad behavior, by golly it worked! He now understands that doing bad gets him NOTHING! If he is good there could be a treat in there for him!

    So stick with it!!!

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