Despite the strong north wind, I really wanted to get a ride in on Sunny today. Yesterday was cold and icky, but today it was sunny and bright and the ground was quiet underfoot for a change. Sunny was also bright and not so quiet, but given the wind I expected as much.
I switched it up a bit, and after walking some spiral in/outs to warm up, sent him off into a sitting trot and then cued him for a left lead canter departure. He surprised me by stepping right up into it and rocking around really nicely. I didn't push for more collection than he gave me, just kept my hands nice and quiet and my legs on. Four rounds without breaking, and without flattening out or bracing - I think it's a record!
We went left twice more just as nicely, then switched directions and tried right on for size. It was rockier, but far from the worst it's been. He only broke once, and didn't try running out or throwing his head which is definitely progress. After that we did some collected walk/trot transitions, I practiced two-point on a loose rein trot, and we finished up with some half-passing. He was fabulous, and I couldn't be happier.
With Sunny brushed and turned back out, I headed over to Eric's for my lesson. I've been waiting for today all week - I was finally going to get to ride Buddy.
Buddy is an elegantly put together seven-year-old, copper-penny-red-chestnut Arabian gelding with a wide white blaze and two high, white front stockings. He has a sweet disposition to go along with his height. Yes, it's true - Buddy has both the height and the long, curvacious neck that Sunny lacks. And he's mine for the show season.
For today we stuck with walk and trot. Buddy hasn't been shown (or ridden much) in two years, and he's a) out of shape, and b) still flashing the strut and snort that made him competitive as a Country English junior horse. Eric got on him first, not because Buddy was hot and apt to be silly (he actually seems fairly laid back in spite of his forward way of going), but because he wanted to demonstrate how he's been asking Buddy to change his frame. And it's a pretty big change from really upright and reachy to the rounder, lower hunt seat carriage.
What's also crystal clear is that Eric likes this horse a LOT, so I'm doubly flattered to have been offered the chance to not only ride, but show him. And based on today's lesson, I think Buddy and I are going to get along just fine. I'll be working at first on building up his topline - he needs conditioning in general, and he also needs to develop the muscles in his neck differently than he did for his former discipline.
I've already learned that with Buddy the challenge isn't to keep him from going hollow, it's in asking him to bring his shoulders up. He needs to learn to roll over more toward the middle of his neck, rather than just breaking at the poll. He, like Sunny, needs to be encouraged to find his own balance, that spot where he carry himself rather than hanging on my hands for balance. And it's my job to help him do that, which means I have to be able to feel when he's right and reward him for being there. We spent a lot of time on rate and feel.
Buddy has a BIG stride, and unlike Sunny I don't have to work for forward. The challenge is more in rating the impulsion down. The two of them are going to be a nice juxtaposition - and, since Sunny's a half-Arab and Buddy's full, they won't end up in the same classes if they happen to end up at the same shows. :)
Pictures of Buddy to follow - I'm supposed to give him a bath on Saturday, which I'm sure will be entertaining... But it should provide a better opportunity to take my camera.
Eric only had two horses left to ride when my lesson was done - one of them, Pete, the saddleseat gelding I rode once previously, just needed a conditioning ride (basically, long-trotting), and Eric asked if I wanted to do that while he schooled the other gelding he had left western pleasure. Gee, I don't know... twist my arm - LOL! I used the opportunity to practice my two-point and watch what Eric was doing.
All in all, a great riding day - hope everyone else had a chance to get out for some pony-time, too!