Only too happy to be playing with my new saddle, I spent Wednesday morning charging around on Skye and Thunder. Skye was in a very fiery mood and enjoyed herself thoroughly; we went for a long outride which basically went like this:
Skye: Let’s run!
Me: Not right now. Walk on.
Skye: How about now?
Me: Nope. Still walking. Sorry.
Skye: And now?
Me: Fine, you can jog a little.
Skye: Whoohoo! *breaks into a jog that goes more upwards than forwards*
Me: Maybe you should have been a dressage horse after all.
Skye: Can we run now?
We stopped over at the dam to strip off saddle and boots and swim across the middle; I intended to wade, but suddenly the water came up over Skye’s back, I planted my fists in her mane and she paddled happily across, snorting every now and then. The swim cooled us both down and refreshed us enough that it was worth riding home in wet jeans on a new saddle. I did eventually give her a run by cantering the kilometre or two home without a break, which I hoped would satisfy her, but oh no, not Skye. She danced the rest of the way home, snorting, prancing and generally telling the world how amazing she was.
Thunder was in a less wild-eyed mood and impressed me no end by being absolutely perfect with both gates today. Being able to open and close a gate whilst mounted is a really useful and surprisingly difficult skill. Skye and I do it virtually in our sleep, having had plenty of practice, but Thunder still finds all the maneuvering kind of hard, thanks to a tree standing right next to the gate. This time, though, he was perfect; he went exactly where I wanted, turned on the haunches, turned on the forehand, backed up and stood dead still while I leaned down his side to latch it. I was sufficiently impressed.
We jogged up to the rocky hill known as the Unchartered Territory and walked along beside the public road; a truck blared past when were about 50-100m from the road and Thunder didn’t turn a hair. A guinea fowl leaping out of the bushes was a life-threatening danger, though, and he leapt into the air and bolted one step before I got him under control, turned him in a circle, gave him a smack and told him exactly what I thought about that kind of behaviour. Thunder, to his credit, stood dead still, watching the guinea fowl fly away. Once he was standing still on a loose rein I gave him a rub and told him not to be so daft again, and he relaxed completely. That’s the nice thing about Thun – his spooks last a few seconds and then they’re over. He doesn’t stay nervous for ages the way some youngsters do.
In fact we had a nicely relaxed canter on the way home and he didn’t even look at the handful of scary things we encountered. He just needs to get used to birds and duiker jumping out of bushes. They’re his one weakness.
Thursday was a hectic day; I barely had time for school, a quick blog post and to change Magic’s bandages (his wound is on the mend without any infection) before it was time to rush off to the stables for work. We were on quite a tight schedule with four horses to work within two hours, and two new foals having been born that morning. One of the mares wouldn’t push out her afterbirth and needed veterinary attention, so it was general madness.
Reed and I had time for a really good session, though. I set him up a double of two crossrails with about 8.5m in between them (I never know how to distance a double for Reed; they say a stride is 3.5m, but possibly not for a 14hh pony), theoretically two strides. I wanted to see how adjustable he was and how we could improve our rhythm. Reed definitely benefited from our transition session on Tuesday; especially his halts were much sharper and cleaner than usual and he didn’t fall onto my hands so much. His frame was a bit worse, probably because I didn’t lunge him first, but otherwise he was pretty nice.
We jumped the double a few times and we both started off extremely crooked; we would wobble along to the first jump, jump it at its highest point, veer wildly off course and then somehow scramble over the second one. This happened two or three times until I got fed up, shortened my reins and took control over him. I’m too used to Arwen and Magic, who both approach extremely straight, although Arwen drifts sometimes. Reed is the opposite; he approaches in a squiggle and then jumps dead straight. When I took control and rode him assertively throughout, though, Reed jumped beautifully straight and lost his crookedness almost completely.
We ended up jumping the double with both jumps 90cm uprights, and he didn’t have a single stop. I experimented with adjusting his strides. He started off putting two strides into the related distance and then a nasty little half-stride before jumping, so I sped him up and had him lengthen his steps until he was putting in two big strides and then jumping smoothly. He had to stretch a bit, but he made it. Because he had to stretch himself so much I tried asking him for three very short strides. Poor Reed shot himself in the foot. He jumps exactly where and when asked, and won’t save himself the way Arwen does, so we jumped, put in three strides and then found ourselves right on top of the second jump. I gave him my heels and hands but no horse could have jumped that from there, so he crashed through it, poor dude. I thought he might lose his nerve having rapped his front legs on the pole, but instead he just jumped hugely with his knees tucked right up once or twice before going back to his usual self.
We finished off by jumping a 1.00m upright a couple of times and then calling it a day, with a very tired Reed and a very happy rider. Poor Reed, he will eventually get fit, although our sessions are hard workouts for him at the moment.
Because I was schooling stallions, I cooled my heels for half an hour while a client had a lesson on his beautiful Arab stallion Galeel. That’s the big pain with stallions – we can’t have two people in the arena at once, unlike with mares and geldings. (Well, with Reed you usually can, but we weren’t taking chances as Galeel is still very young and green. We’re not Lipizzaner riders!). Once Galeel had gone off to his paddock I fetched cute little Chrome for his third time under saddle ever.
Chrome is one of those dreamy horses who seems to be born knowing the aids; he doesn’t really neck-rein yet, but he’s just as responsive to my hands as to my legs, and apart from the occasional slap with the end of the reins he doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to go forward unlike a lot of these relaxed horses. We walked in circles, walked and jogged figure eights and worked properly on loping for the first time. Chromey gave me six laps of the arena without a single real buck. The worst he did was to plunge into a gallop from a jog for a few strides before settling into his beautiful smooth lope.
He’s just a really nice, straightforward, down-to-earth, easygoing little dude and a joy to work with. Add to this the fact that he is chestnut with socks and a blaze and you have me thoroughly enchanted with him.
It was quite a scramble to get Chrome unsaddled – I had worked a bit late with him; unfortunately, when I’m schooling a horse, the rest of the world kind of disappears for me -and we charged off to art class just in time to meet Galeel’s owner at the church/studio. Galeel’s owner is also one of the best equine artists in South Africa, and I was stoked to be getting art classes from him.
Okay, so the shading sucks and my poor horse doesn’t look anything like he does on the photos, but he’s a lot of fun to draw. Hopefully I’ll finish him in the next class or two, and do the next one rather better.
This weekend is Outride Weekend; maybe my longsuffering boyfriend and I can take Thunder for his first outride on our neighbour’s farm. I’m rather looking forward to that!