I've decided no more riding until I get a new saddle for Lilly (except maybe bareback). The Circle Y is on eBay, the work saddle is on Craigslist, and I'm hoping I can trade in the Collegiate when I purchase my new english saddle.
I contacted the tack shop today about having a saddle fitting done on Lilly but the saddle fitter wasn't available. I'm supposed to hear back from her within the next 24 hours. The website said to bring the horse to their shop, but I guess she'll also come out to your barn and bring a bunch of saddles with her. I'm not sure which option would be better... it would be nice to have her come to me but we would have more options if I went to her.
I decided to try free longeing Lilly in the round pen today. I've been dying for a round pen since I've had horses and I finally have one! I've been a bit slack in the longeing department with Lilly because in a regular arena she ends up dragging me all over the place and we never get much accomplished. In the round pen, she can't jerk me all over and have a good time... she has to maintain the circle and can only go as fast as the small circle will allow. I've never been one to longe before a ride, or longe at the show... I just ride instead, so we haven't done much longeing at all. Now that I'm doing it a bit more, I'm seeing the holes. :)
I thought it might take her a minute to catch on to the fact that we were longeing since there was no line, but she went right out to the rail and started walking. We started out going to the left and true to form she was faster than a speeding bullet. It didn't take her long to realize that it's hard work maintaining that size circle, so before long we had a pretty nice trot.
I've read that horses have a preferred gait. Lilly's preferred gait is definitely the trot and I think she'd trot forever if I let her. Even though I was asking for the walk, she wanted to trot, so each time she started to trot, I pushed her into a canter.
Once I had her responding and listening, I asked her to switch directions. She insisted on turning towards the rail instead of in to me and I'm not sure how to go about fixing that... maybe I should longe her in the round pen but still use a longe line? That way I can pull her in towards me? I'm not sure why she thought that was the proper way to change directions.
Going to the right was not nearly as successful as going to the left. Lilly's strong side is going left, and her weak side is going right. Today that was quite obvious. First, she refused to go right and kept turning into the rail to reverse directions. When I tried to get her turned back around going to the right, she decided to show off in hopes of taking my mind off what was really happening. She started doing beautiful side pass steps and wonderful backs that were very straight!
"Look at me, mom! Isn't this really good?"
It took a lot of work and a lot of help from my little friend the dressage whip poking her in the shoulder to get her turned around and moving forward and to the right. She finally got going in a canter but it was ICKY! She was bent so far to the outside that her nose was hitting the little spaces between the panels. I think once she thought about trying to escape, but then realized that wasn't a good idea. I have a surcingle but I sold my side reins... I wonder if double longeing her would help her bend to the inside? I do have driving lines.
After she had been moving around for a bit and behaving I asked her to stop and stand. Then I wiggled my fingers and told her to come to me. That's her favorite part of longeing and she has that exercise down!
Something I've noticed about Lilly is that she tends to stand a bit parked out. I always wondered if she was standing like that to take pressure off her ligament, or if it was more comfortable for her for another reason. My book has an exercise called "Lifting the Hind Legs" (which is pretty self explanatory) that I've been wanting to try with her because it's supposed to strengthen their hindquarters and help with posture. So while I had her in the round pen with my dressage whip, I decided to give it a try. It starts by teaching her to pick up her leg when I tap it with the whip, and then it progresses to a point where you're asking them to hold the leg up for 10 seconds.
I very rarely ever use whips... in fact, I don't even own a longe whip and only got my dressage whip last week, specifically for this exercise. Spurs are the same way. Anything that encourages forward motion is not needed with Lilly!
So I put her up against one of the panels and rubbed the whip on her leg. I wasn't sure how she'd react to having it touch her legs but she was fine. I started tapping lightly on her leg until she picked it up, then I praised and praised her. I tapped her ankle again and she picked her foot up right away. More praise! This time she turned around and gave me the best look... like she was saying, "Are you kidding me? THAT is what you wanted me to do!" I turned her around and we did the same thing on the right side. After just one tap she picked up her leg. I don't think she was impressed by the exercise.
She was very sweet today. I'm having so much fun working with her again. :)