Yesterday was snowy. In the 30's, but the white stuff started pre-dawn and it just kept coming. Since the plows cut a swath down our street yet (they tend to leave a foot-high crusty ridge across the end of the driveway) and Eric doesn't plow his driveway, either, when I left for my lesson I elected to drive the big truck which has dependable 4-wheel drive. On the way over - it's about 12 miles - I was practically the only vehicle on the road. Visibility wasn't great, but the road had been plowed and salted, so it was sloppy more than slippery. The wind was just starting to pick up and send runners out across the highway, and as I drove I watched the temperature tick down from mid-30's to upper-20's.
Eric sent me right out after Dancer. When I called to him from the gate his ears pricked up and he actually walked over to meet me - of course, when he spotted the halter dangling from my hand he ducked away and trotted back through the other horses. But he stopped after about 20 feet and turned back towards me, pricked his ears at a firm "whoa" and stood while I walked up and slipped his halter on.
Inside he was much less anxious in the cross ties - he didn't deposit even one pile for me to scoop. Which compared to five or six times he decorated the floor before our first lesson is pretty indicative of how anxious he was!
He made up for his new-found calm in the indoor, however, as he hadn't seen the plastic sheeting covering the outside door before. Plastic, even see-through, stationary plastic, eats pintos and must be treated with extreme caution in case it attacks.
But I stuck with him, and by using some gradually increasing circles we eventually managed to use the whole way round rather than riding a big circle with one seriously flat side. Once he'd settled at the walk in both directions, Eric had me step him into a working trot and we focused on maintaining a consistent level of collection. I got lots of practice at encouraging elevation without letting him get hollow, and at changing rate without letting him get hollow, and at transitions without letting him get hollow... hmmm - I think I'm seeing a pattern here - LOL!
Midway through the lesson Eric had me take the horse he was riding for a couple of rounds. The gelding - a big, lean, snakey-necked chestnut half-Arab with a long narrow head - arrived last week. He's been shown western pleasure, but for a change of scene is going to go hunt seat this year. Eric wanted to see how his trot was shaping up under a rider, which was cool. Although since Eric rides a good two holes longer, posting was kind of a challenge.
Back on Dancer, Eric tortured me with some two-point at a long-rein trot, then collect up and it was on to canter. The actual canter was great - the first downward transition was kind of ugly. Hollow-city, because I forgot to maintain leg contact. I had a couple that were better later, but none of them were stellar.
Eric's always stressing that the cue to collect comes from the rider's inside leg first - you squeeze them up into the bridle by asking them to lift their barrel and step underneath from behind. I've been doing my best to practice this consistently with Sunny, and I think it's one of the reasons his transitions are getting to be soft and round. I think I've mention at least once or twice how quickly Dancer gets hollow - my personal goal last night was to see if I could get him to collect that softly. I think I managed it a couple of times, at least in the upward direction.
It's probably a sign of how far I've come in terms of being able to focus on and feel what I'm doing that as we rode we actually managed to carry on a conversation around the "shoulders back" and "lift your rib-cage" and "are you remembering to pulse and release your heel?" - I've been watching classes at the Scottsdale Arabian show, and I had some questions. Some of which I actually remembered. I know I can always look up the answers, but getting an actual trainer's perspective is fascinating.
Anyway... Eric has mentioned me showing this season a couple of times. And okay, I'm flattered, but... as he's told me - and after watching the half-Arabian classes at Scottsdale this week, I can't disagree, Sunny plainly isn't built to be a breed-show level show horse. He's too small, among other things. Oh, we'll hit some local open shows this summer and I have every intention of enjoying it, but when I think of the clipping, coat, mane and tail maintenance, not to mention the pulling, braiding, banding, etc. required for a polished turnout at a regional breed show ... um... not really in my wheelhouse.
So when Eric brought the subject up again last night I was (again) pleased that he thinks I've improved enough to make it worth his while to want me to show. (Because clearly, any credit I'd collect would of course reflect back on the trainer - lol!) But Sunny hasn't suddenly shot up two hands worth or equally magically gained 6" of neck length, nor have I gotten any more competitive or desirous of trying to keep his tubby self in anything resembling a svelte show figure.
But this time Eric accompanied his suggestion that I show with a proposal.... and after pondering it for the remainder of my lesson and Dancer's cool-down and post-ride brushing... I said yes. Intrigued? Me, too! More details coming soon...