Essays of an Equestrian

What a wonderful Saturday today was. I had no set schedule, and took a leisurely trip down to the barn for a ride. I haven’t been riding much at all, but with this three day weekend and some new juice in my enthusiasm I figured it was a good day to start my training regimen for this season.

I should have started earlier, but home chores kept me from riding in earnest. But now the grass is growing well and is mowed, the vegetables planted, the plants fertilized. Everything is fresh and clean so now there will be more time for riding.

My horse seemed pleased to see me and gave me that familiar and adorable nicker in greeting. I opened the stall door, gave him some much wanted baby talk and scratched that special place on his crest. I slipped on the halter and he happily clip clopped to the cross ties.

He stood like a gentlemen so he got a treat. I then began the three step process of brushing him. He was dusty for sure, and some hairs on his loins still seemed to be shedding. He had a mud spot near his poll on one side, and one gaskin was muddy too. I took out my small round rubber curry and lightly began to do soft circles around his body, paying special attention to the itchy spots like under his mane. I focused the brushing as a masseuse would pay attention during a massage, watching his reaction to what I was doing and if he liked it or not. If he seemed to like the brushing in one spot I’d linger, until his body language told me to move on.

After the once over with that brush, and because he stood like a gentleman and didn’t lift a leg, he got a treat. Next, I went to a mitt which has sheepskin on one side and cactus cloth on the other. Starting with his poll, I gave him the once over with the cactus cloth side. I could see that he was starting to shine.

When I needed him to move over I practiced using my energy to do it. He did well. He remembered.

Again, a treat for he’d stood just as good as for the first round of brushing. Now the third round, the softest bristle brush you can imagine. I brushed him methodically, a flick of the wrist propelling the dust into the air and off his coat. When I was done, he was deliciously shiny. I stepped back and admired him. Such a handsome boy!

Other than his bit of a Budha belly his muscling didn’t look too bad. He kind of looked butch and I was happy with that.

I finished up the rest of the grooming, though I did have to walk away once when he lifted his leg to me after the brushing hit a tickley spot on his belly. After a few minutes I came back, and his Thoroughbred brain was so starved for attention that he once more stood like a champion. When I was done, he got a treat and my wonderous praise.

He likes that kind of babbling praise a lot. He gets this “I’m adorable!” look on his face which I find terribly endearing.

I tacked him up and could tell he really wanted to get a move on it. He was anxious to be off the crossties, anxious to work.

I put on my helmet.

We stepped into the indoor and I clumsily climbed the mounting block, swung a leg over and got on. He then almost scooted off in a most energetic walk. I know this walk. It’s “spooky walk”. It’s the walk he does when he is looking for an excuse to be silly and to get frightened from silly things like the dirt.

The indoor had jumps strewn about. The rails were all down but not neatly piled, more like someone tossed a bunch of toothpicks around that fell randomly about.

I needed to focus him, I could feel him building energy inside. I began to walk him over the rails as if I was doing a pattern. I tried as little as possible not to use my hands but rather my seat, weight and legs. Some of the turns to get from one rail to another were extreme, others not so hard. I took him back and forth over them at the walk, each time using the reins less and less. By the time I’d finished the sixth set of varying patterns his focus was mine.

I then started my work, walking circles, shoulder fore, baby half passes for a couple of steps, A lot of changes in the walk from long steps to more collected steps.. More should fore, haunches in, square halts; we took our time and I tried to concentrate on riding the back end, imagining lifting the forehand and being light on the bit, my body finding his and moving together. I worked hard on not getting in the way. Nice and quiet and relaxed. Good.

I was very pleased with our work. Way more than I had expected. I was proud of him and I let him know it. He liked that!

I then moved up to trot and he was very forward and willing. I kept him in a longer frame which pleased his demeanor. Lots of changes within the trot and a ton of trot walk trainsitions. He was nice off my leg and other than the occasional locked jaw he was great! And even the jaw thing softened with just a little attention from me with my leg.

I however, caught myself looking down for the diagonal and I made this loud grunting noise in disgust. Hadn’t I just written about how hard I worked to get passed this habit?! So I sat some trot, then lifted by feel. Wrong diagonal. That’s right, I have to wait until it feels right, then wait one, then rise.

I tried it again and nailed it. Good. I worked on it for the rest of the ride going in and out of transitions.

By the end of the trot work he was started to get that semi floating feeling. I worked a few minutes in that state then called it quits, even though we hadn’t cantered. The canter is the gait where he’s most likely to fall on the front so rather than fight it I opted to just wait until tomorrow. Get that little bit more so he can balance himself better. Gymnasticize him just a bit more tomorrow and we’ll be fine.

This was a good start. I am pleased.

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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.