Monday, August 8, 2011

The Appy Diaries: When baby steps become big-boy steps

Rion has been doing well being ridden in the arena. I still need to roundpen him before I get on for a minute to get his sillies out. I admit that I wish I could longe in the arena to expedite the process a bit, but I do think the roundpen gives him a little more of that "recess" feel instead of "straight to work!" He usually does some playing in the roundpen, then we work for a minute to get in the mental game, then up to the arena where I get on.

He has been nothing but business under saddle from the first day I got on him. I cantered him last week for the first time- I just snuck in a "caaaanter!" *kiss* as we trotted down the long side- he stepped right off before he could think about what was going on and I was happy with that. I asked one more time and got a few steps of lovely (baby) canter and quit.

Today I worked him as normal, then hopped on in the arena. When you start a youngster, they typically are very tentative to go forward for two reasons- one is the new weight on their back, and two is because going forward (or being in front of your leg) is foreign to them and also- it's work!

You have to ride a baby horse like they're an adult so they begin to understand the concepts, but you also have to understand that they DON'T know what you're asking, and patiently explain it to them, one step at a time! They're not born knowing what we mean! So, for example, as soon as I start asking a horse to turn, I start using my legs. They are associating the cue the with action.

He has begun to understand the concept of a forward working walk and is moving nicely away from my leg. He is very reactive to shifting weight, so I've been riding him in my western saddle to stabilize my weight on his back- he seems happy with that solution for now.

Today, I asked him to trot off like I normally do, expecting a little back and forth like we normally have- I ask him to trot, he stumbles off a step or two and then walks. I ask him to trot and he complies, slugglishly. I kick him up a little and he finally goes on and trots pokily around the arena, finding a couple of forward steps here and there and stopping every so often. Instead, he jumped right into a nice, forward trot and he kept a lovely steady tempo the whole time. He moved away from my leg all over the place, weaving between jumps, going into all corners of the arena, switching directions, making circles and moving happily past the open gate without sucking back or dropping his shoulder! He even gave me a step here or there of softening into a bit of a shape. I was so impressed! He felt like a big boy for sure!

There is nothing more fun than when the first tentative baby steps under saddle start to become glimpses of "real horse!"

Also, after I turned him out this afternoon, he galloped out to the end of the pasture to meet his friends... so I got to witness the first view of what promises to be an INCREDIBLE gallop. As I said on facebook earlier, "This little red appy promises to make someone a NEAT event horse!"

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