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Wizard Ride 161; In which Mr. Spanky returns…

July 30, 2010

ZOOM!

Monday, 7/26/10

My riding instructors always taught me to ride with a crop in hand. I rarely used it, but they said it was important to learn how to apply “artificial” aids like a spur or a crop so that you can use them effectively if needed.

When I started riding Wizard, he was so sensitive to leg contact that I never used a crop; in fact, I kept my legs quite still for several rides until he settled. Once he got more comfortable with me, we worked on responding to leg and he improved quite nicely. His one sticking point, so to speak, was when he was at a halt and I wanted him to “walk on”. He sometimes rooted his feet to the ground and would stand still, no matter how much pressure I gave him with my leg. If he did not respond to a squeeze or a little heel on my boot, I’d tap him with my hand and he would move forward. Although mostly harmless, it was an evasion of sorts and it meant that he could avoid my leg when he felt like it. This is not such a big deal when we’re bumming around in an arena, but it could turn into a very dangerous habit if we were riding on the trail, road, etc. As long as a rider is applying the correct aids, the horse should ALWAYS respond within a reasonable range of time and pressure. This is also why a rider must be judicious with commands and only say “GO” and “WHOAH” when s/he means it.

Since Wizard arena stickiness at a halt was turning into a habit, I employed my dressage whip, jokingly called Mr. Spanky, for Monday’s ride. When I was a kid riding lesson ponies, my instructor used to say, “squeeze, then kick, then stick”. I used a similar but slightly more subtle method with Wizard, touching his hip with the whip if he did not heed my leg. It worked like a charm, and within three tries, the stickiness was virtually gone.

In the past, I carried a crop on trail rides, just in case. Wizard sometimes gets a little choppy and tight when I carry a stick so I need to work on my riding and on settling him when I’m carrying a crop. Like everything else, I think it will come with time.

Our ride was nice- it lasted about 30 minutes. We did a lot of walking and I asked for some impulsion at the walk. Wizard has a spectacular walk when he’s moving forwardly. We worked on large circles and on our corners at the trot. In the beginning, I rode on an oval shape but now Wizard is advanced enough to start riding more deeply into corners. At the canter, I planted my hands in his neck, put a loop in the reins, and asked him to canter about 4 or 5 times around the arena in each direction. The outdoor arena is quite large, and it felt great to observe him as he adjusted his stride and settled into a lovely canter in each direction. He picked up the correct lead on the first try to the left and on the third try to the right.

Sometimes, it feels like summer will be here forever. I need to remind myself that I won’t have this lovely, large outdoor arena all year round and I should appreciate all the outdoor riding we’ve gotten to do in recent weeks.

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