Tuesday 30 July 2019

Making Progress

Since about the end of May, I've been making great progress with Cisco. Not that he's getting ridden much more consistently or anything - 3 days a week is still a good week. It's that he's trying his little heart out for me. And every ride just seems to build on the last one.

I haven't knowingly changed anything. Well, maybe it's the saddle - I started to notice better rides when I got the new Wow saddle back in about March. The only reason I could see that making a significant difference from the treeless I was using before would be possibly the lesser stability of the treeless saddle, or him feeling less of my movement in the Wow than the treeless. No idea, but that seemed to be when things started to change.
I had to spring for a new suit of armor fly sheet since he's made a mess of his last one. The mosquitos are terrible so I took pity on the ponies and finally blanketed them.
I tried him for a couple of rides recently in a Herm Sprenger Dynamic KK snaffle, but switched him back to his Bombers Happy Tongue. I think he's still more comfortable in the non-jointed bit at this point, and since he is still learning to trust and want the connection I don't want to really change things up at this point. He wasn't bad in the HS bit, but he was fussier. Considering the improvement in a jointed snaffle from when I started him to these couple of rides I have hope that I will eventually be able to put him in a jointed bit of some type. But if it never happens, it's definitely not the end of the world.

My focus during our rides has been on a few things as of late.

1) Forward. Cisco can be a bit dull to the leg. I need to sharpen up our upward transitions, as well as forward and back transitions within the gait. I haven't ridden him with spurs yet, but might for a couple of rides to see if they will help as he can be a little insensitive to the whip.
Although, he surprised me on a ride last week when I did the accordion exercise at a trot. We went for 8 strides of a lengthened trot, 8 strides working trot, 8 strides shortened trot, and repeated. A couple of times he shot off on me and left me behind with the lengthened trot with a very light aid. It's another one of these things that he understands, but chooses when to comply (like leg-yields).
72 hours in and no damage! It's a really pretty purple and blue colour, so hopefully he keeps this one in good shape. I'll not keep my fingers crossed though.
2) Bending. It's taken a while, but Cisco is trying really hard to stretch his head down and forward at a trot. Over-trying, in some cases. I've reined back allowing him to reach down too much, and am now trying to mostly keep him where I want him and asking him to just push to there and no more. The next step involves getting some bend and maintaining that reach for the bit. So we are doing lots of bendy stuff. Lots of changes of direction. Not a lot of straight lines.

3) Moving the shoulders - specifically, moving the shoulders left and not dumping them to the right. This has been an ongoing issue. Cisco really likes to push his shoulders and ribcage to the right. Especially through a walk/trot transition. I have to really think about setting him up straight, move him slightly off my right leg with a wee bit of right flexion, sit on my right seatbone, with my shoulders turned to the right, and hope that it doesn't fall apart through the transition. His other trick is to just push the shoulder in and barge through the turn, ignoring my half-halts.

I know the fix is that I need to ride him in shoulder-fore/shoulder-in to the right for the next decade. Ugh, so hard. Thankfully the right is my better side at shoulder-in (because I just can't to the left). I did some work on Friday with it at a walk. I could get one step with the shoulder to the inside, then he would just barge through my reins and turn instead of head down the track. So I moved onto ask for one step then halt.


On Sunday I actually tried it at a trot a bit off the track and had a really good effort of 5 or 6 strides. So maybe we'll just have to skip it at a walk.

I've also been working on turns on the haunches and moving the shoulders while counter-flexed. He's had some nice moments at a walk with some quarter turns on a square - a 180 turn is too much still. Counter flexing at a trot and staying on our line is hit or miss (mostly miss) so I need to do a bunch of work on that.

Our canter is coming along - he's much more relaxed and rhythmic. I am a much better trot rider than a canter rider, and I need to spend way more time in canter. I have to start giving myself a goal of how many minutes of canter per ride I need and make sure I meet it using my Equisense. The only way to get better at it is to do it.

I wish I could get Cisco out more to do stuff outside of the arena but between the inevitable daily rain, the horrendous evening mosquitos, and his flat feet that really should have shoes on them because he's owie on hard ground or gravel but I can't afford to shoe two horses so it's not happening, we're stuck inside. We'll continue to work on the basics of riding so that when we get to do new life things hopefully they won't be as dramatic.  Pretty sure they will be dramatic, but maybe only slightly less than full on drama llama.

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