Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lesson Day: Sunny jumps!

It was 50' this morning - chilly enough for a sweatshirt, and absolutely gorgeous.  My lesson was scheduled for 9 a.m., so I had the boys loaded and was on the road not too much past eight.

The cool had Sunny on his toes.  After commenting that Sunny appeared to be getting ready for winter - yes, if he was a bear he'd be all set for hibernation - Eric had me walk for not too very long and then bump Sunny into a working trot.  It took a few laps for Sunny to soften to me, and he didn't collect as much as when we were working regularly, but he was trying.  Canter left was still a no-go, and after a couple right (wrong) lead departures, Eric agreed when I asked if maybe we could wait until after Sunny's seen the chiropractor to really get after him.

Since Sunny was trotting level and solid, Eric had me switch directions and ask for right lead instead.  That direction was actually pretty decent.  Sunny's finally starting to engage his hind end and round into it, instead of being so heavy on his front end.  When we started with lessons a year ago, Sunny was really flat - basically pulling himself around. 

I'll admit, when Eric had ask for a gallop and two-point, I didn't push as hard as I think he would have liked, but there was at least some difference between canter and gallop, and Sunny didn't break.  So, progress. 

I dropped down to a working trot.  Eric stood in the center and pondered....

"Do you want to try a jump?" was not a question I was expecting.  Okay... do I really want to die today flashed through my mind, but what came out my mouth was, "Sure - I can trot it, right?" 

So Eric set the jump standards out for a single jump.  For the first few passes he left the three poles flat on the ground for us to first walk, and then trot through.  Once Sunny was trotting through with no hesitation, Eric set one end of the middle pole in a cup - half of a very low x-rail - and had us try that. 

Sunny has good brakes.

The first couple of approaches were pretty ugly, but for every time Sunny trotted over without hesitating, he got to walk a round.  If he refused or balked, around we went again.  Bless Sunny's lazy heart, he caught on pretty darn fast that if he went over, he got a break.

Once Sunny was going across the half-x smoothly, Eric raised the bar - literally.  He put the other end of the pole in the cup, confronting us with a small single rail jump about 12" off the ground.  Just like with the half-x, Sunny started by refusing a couple of times, but when I remembered to look through the standards to the opposite fence, instead of down at the jump, he started trotting over. 

And then Eric said, "Okay, now canter." 

Um... what?  I thought you said we could just TROT!!!  And of course, the first couple of times I looked down and Sunny ran out or refused.  But lots of leg, remembering to look through the jump, and a four-footed epiphany (oh yeah, if I don't go over, I have to keep working...) later, we managed to canter up, hesitate, and trot over.  Which bought Sunny a lap of walking.  And on the next cantering attempt, I managed to look ahead, keep my legs on, shove my hands forward at the right moment, and Sunny jumped and cantered on.  Where's a spectator with a camera when you need one?

We called that a lesson.  I was soaked, having started the lesson in a sweatshirt.  Sunny, although puffing slightly, had yet to even break a sweat. It's sad, really.

So is Sunny a jumper - nope - funny thought, though.  I fully expect if I point him at a jump in the future, he's going to refuse plenty more times.  BUT, I think the point of today's lesson wasn't as much Sunny jumping as it was getting me to stop over-thinking my canter departures and remembering to look up and between Sunny's ears.  It was a fun change of pace - I didn't die.

Post-lesson, a couple of friends arrived to ride, and since they didn't have anything strenuous planned, I pulled Sunny's saddle off, unwrapped his polos, and hopped back on.  Sunny was more than happy to mosey, we all had a nice ride/chat, and I didn't have to feel guilty for not having accomplished anything.  

New feet!

My farrier has a day job.  Which is great, given gas prices but not so great when her work rearranges her schedule at the last minute.  Luckily she's wonderful with updates. and I had plenty of time to flex things on my end.  I had Rufus picked up and over to the farm by 4 p.m., and she arrived on the dot at 5:15 as planned.

Remember Rufus, Tony's gelding?

He's been living a life of leisure over at J's this summer.

I've been wanting to get him over so L can trim him, but I have to admit I've been kind of dreading it.  I figured he'd be more upset to leave "his" herd, but other than a whinny - after I unloaded him - when he saw me leading Sunny and Thunder over to the trailer, Rufus was the picture of calm.  He left without fussing, loaded and unloaded sweetly on both ends of the trip (he's been hauled a lot, but almost never by himself since we've owned him).

When I took him back, he even hung out to be petted after I turned him loose.  All the rest of the horses were tiny dots clear down at the other end of the pasture, but he didn't just duck his head and show me his heels as fast as he could.  And since he's at the low end of the pecking order, that's pretty major.

Rufus's worst moment was probably the camera - the beeping kind of freaked him out. But after some sashaying back and forth....

 He decided whatever that noise was, it wasn't going to kill him.

In the meantime, I got a bunch of pictures like this one.

Rufus, when he's being ridden, needs shoes.  Unlike Sunny, who goes down the road beautifully barefoot with no sign of discomfort, Rufus gets ouchy.  He also has a tripping issue.

As you can see, he's still carrying the scuff marks from a nasty skid last year.  J uses a different farrier, and while I have no complaints, I wanted L to take a look and see if she had any thoughts on angles, trims or shoes that might help.

After looking at the wear on his feet and his angles, she suggested trying a reverse wedge pad in front next time we put shoes on him.  Nothing exaggerated, but enough to encourage him to step down onto his heel first, rather than digging in with his toes.  He's still barefoot for now, but after listening to her explanation - which I'm not going to try to repeat here, because I'll screw it up - I think it might be worth a shot.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bareback on a Saturday

Horse time has been mostly a daily check-in for fly spray and nose patting lately.  I spent a few hours on Tuesday helping Eric and company get ready to leave for the Iowa Gold Star show (and avoiding my housework), but on Saturday I met E over at Eric's for some riding time.

I pulled in around 9 a.m. and took my time getting hooves picked out and both boys brushed off while I waited for E.  We hadn't set a definite time, and she has a lot further to drive then I do, so when I was done I went ahead and wrapped Sunny's legs and tacked him up.  I figured since it'd been a few weeks since I'd ridden, I'd let him blow off some steam on the longe line if he wanted to.

He bounced off at a perky trot, but it didn't take him long to wind down.  I did ask him to canter in both directions.  He looked stiff and flat to the left, and more than once he took the wrong lead first and then switched.  Right was better, as has been usual lately.  His toes are on the long side, too... all things considered, if I'd been planning for a lesson I'd have canceled, and if I'd planned for a stiff work session I'd have bagged it, but since neither of those things was on the agenda, I decided I wasn't going to feel guilty for riding him.

I'd just gotten on when E pulled in, and while I waited for her to get Mac collected and ready, I worked Sunny through some spirals and body part isolation exercises.  I didn't ask him for much collection - mainly just walking and a few rounds at a trot until he was soft and reaching down for the bit and stepping under and over when I asked.   

Once E came out - and hopped on bareback - I pulled Sunny's saddle off and joined her.  We spent an hour or better just moseying around the arena chatting and laughing at the antics of the one lone chicken that decided to join us.  She kept strutting and scratching and flopping down to take dust baths in random spots, generally right in front of an on-coming hoof.  Miraculously, she didn't get stepped on, but due more to the horses than any concern she exhibited.

Neither horses nor chicken appeared at all concerned, although I initially had visions of puffed up dustmop trying to fly up Sunny's left nostril... and eventually she wandered off to sun herself elsewhere.

When E and I finished, I saddled Thunder and longed him - his first time in the arena.  He tracked around like the trooper he usually is, wide-eyed but listening.  Afterward I rode him through and over the ground poles and then we explored the arena for a while.  Although he's been hauled over there quite a few times, he's always spent his time guarding the trailer.  He checked things out, but didn't seem to concerned about anything - including the rest of the chickens that were clucking and flapping around across the fence from us. 

All in all it was a lovely way to spend the morning, and I feel better for the riding time.  The farrier's coming this week to do feet, and it looks as if the weather may cooperate by cooling off.  I sure hope so!