Finally, the six weeks of forced rest is over and the ponies and I have all gone solidly back to work, as well as the ever-increasing string of client horses that seem to have attached themselves to me in bewildering and wonderful numbers. You just have to love the God Who drops horses in your lap.
I have twenty horses in training with me at the moment, although thankfully they are not all at my place; I am a ridiculous OCD crazy horse keeper person and would spend all day every day fussing over their hair or something. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to need a groom to keep everyone as clean and shiny as my picky standards demand.
Arwen had two days off after our impromptu offsite lesson; she looked pretty much tuckered out for the whole of Sunday and I think she would have been okay to ride on Monday, but it rained and I felt sorry for the unfit beast so she got a bonus day off. We jumped on Tuesday, during which she was basically Hickstead and didn’t refuse a thing, including a 1.00m (3′ 3″) parallel oxer that looked rather daunting from where I was sitting and was apparently totally not scary according to Arwen. Both of us have totally messed up eyes at the moment, though, mostly due to lack of practice and (in my case) lack of talent. I can’t see a distance to save my life. At least I’m getting good at not falling off when jumping from horrible distances. Next time I plan to put out a bunch of placing poles at the takeoff point just to help us both hone in on the perfect spot.
Wednesday was also an unplanned day off since there just weren’t enough hours in the day; the Mutterer and I had three horse to transport and a client to go to, which all went very well and raised the current horse population of Hydeaway Farm to nine.
On Thursday we did a bit of dressage. Since having her teeth done, Arwen is pretty much always on the bit. She loses her frame for a few seconds during some complex transitions or simple changes, but the feeling in my hands is just awesome – she has a lovely swinging stride into a supple, steady contact. I am starting to use the French link as my go-to bit more and more since most of the horses, with one or two exceptions, quite like it. Her trot leg-yields to the right are still a bit rusty, lacking some lateral movement, but not bad. Walk-canter and canter-walk transitions were the best they have been, simple changes a little rushed, shoulder-in was awesome. We also adapted the how-many-strides-on-a-circle exercise to a slightly easier version. I used a 20m circle at A to collect her and then counted how many strides I could fit between F and M, then used the M-H short side to extend her and counted how few strides I could fit between H and K. This exercise handily helps for both jumping and dressage by developing a straight, adjustable medium and working canter.
Today was galloping day and the little mare impressed me; she was a little flighty at the start, but steadied after half a mile’s working canter and proceeded to be awesome. We concentrated on both rhythm and speed, getting both of them with minimal effort from me. Then we walked home on the buckle because Nooitgedachters rule the world.
Exavior has started a little groundwork to become a good equine citizen. I keep it quite short – 20 minutes is enough for his baby brain – and use a rope halter because it has a little more bite and the horses tend to respect it and not lean on it, a favourite trick of giant warmbloody types. He is quite the big stubborn donkey and I spent some time dragging him around the arena with a bum rope, but he’s getting the whole idea of walking on a loose lead. For one session he also thought it was a good idea to basically crash into me when I stopped, but a few well-placed elbows quickly sorted that one out. We have started with a little turn on the forehand now. He also now drops his head almost to the ground if I insist and he’s concentrating; when he isn’t, he still responds to poll pressure by lowering his head. This will be very useful as when he lifts his head I already have to stand on my toes like a little kid to get to his forelock.
Magic was a complete jerk for the first five or six sessions after his rest. I started by free lunging him and letting him play and get rid of his energy the first time; this proved to be a good idea as all he did was run around and buck like a maniac for half an hour straight. I did not blame him and merely stood in the middle waiting for his brain to come back. There is very little point in trying to get Magic to do anything specific when his brain is being cooked in excess energy; as long as he was going around and around the way I wanted, I was quite happy.
The next session I strapped a standing martingale to him and made him behave himself, which, with some head-tossing but no bucking, he did. After that I lunged him for a few minutes before every ride and got on; he offered to buck once, but thought better of it. We had several frustrating sessions where he fought the bit and I fought with him and it was a general hot, head-tossing, bouncing, squealing mess, but his brain thankfully came back yesterday. I schooled him in his beloved French link, carrying a dressage whip to encourage him forward into it when he loses his mind (hardest thing ever: making a horse go forward when it wants to go nuts and all your instincts scream at you to stop). He was a little heavy in my hand at the canter, but no flailing, no throwing his head, nothing.
Today I put his Kimberwick back on and when he warmed up superbly – not a single head toss to be seen, at all three gaits – decided to try a bit of jumping. He was stunning. We started with 30cm and finished around 70cm with not a single stop, rail or overjump. We both picked some horrible distances but all in all it was very quiet and harmonious, so I’m hoping we’ve dodged the dreadful overjumping he used last time he had had a rest.
Skye is very mad at the dentist for saying that she is twenty-six years old, and made up for it by nearly throwing me off two rides in a row. I hack her around bareback because, seriously, who needs a saddle to walk around on a bombproof, arthritic old mare? Apparently I do; she is acting like a two-year-old on the GCS, which seems to make her legs feel much better, and bucked, bolted and reared. So much for being a good influence on the youngsters. I stayed on by the skin of my teeth and could only laugh; I love her so much and she’s doing so well.
One of my client horses also has a little foal, about two weeks old, so Skye is naturally in seventh heaven. She stands with her head over the fence gazing dreamily at little Duke and looking extremely broody for hours.
Baby Thunder is being a superstar. His schooling took a few steps back, naturally, for which he can’t be blamed; soon it’ll all come back to him. His spins are a little quicker, but the lope isn’t quite as nice and his rollbacks are very sticky at the moment. On our outride yesterday, though, he was a star. My sister’s mare is quite lively and so she prefers to go in front when we lope, and Baby Thun is totally fine either way; he’s quiet in the back and confident in the front. He was a bit scared of some pigeons in a tree, but this manifested itself only in a shortening of his stride and raising his head, and he went bravely forward when I asked him to. A group of guinea fowl also flew up out of the long grass around him and he handled it very maturely; he startled and had a tiny little sideways shy, then paused and waited for instructions. I do so love it when a horse does that. I said, “Go forward, buddy” and he instantly relaxed and did so.
What a magnificent puzzle horses are; prey animals with lion hearts. Thank You, Jesus. Glory to the King.