Today I rode Lilly in the arena for the first time in a long time. I've really been enjoying the trail rides but she's been doing pretty good out there and we've made quite a bit of progress. In addition to all the herd bound stuff we've got going on, we also have quite a list of things we need to work on in the arena as well, so I thought I'd mix it up and ride there today.
While we actually had sunshine for a change, there were also gale force winds whipping around the barn. A couple times the barn even lost power. That may have also played a part in my decision to ride in the arena today. :)
M joined me at the barn and longed Baby for a while in the round pen. Lilly didn't bat an eye at any of the situations involving Baby that a "normal" herd bound horse would have had an issue with. I didn't expect her to, though, because my crazy horse picks and chooses the situations she feels are worthy of mental breakdowns.
It really was challenging to ride today. The wind gusts were powerful and I could feel myself being blown all over in the saddle. Lilly also had some moments where it felt like she was being interrupted by the wind, and we had a few "tuck and scoot" maneuvers when the wind really whipped up.
Despite the numerous challenges, we had a really good ride. Before I was interrupted with the herd bound issues, I was working on an exercise from my book Equine Fitness: A Program of Exercises and Routines for Your Horse called changing speeds. You can probably guess what this exercise involves, but I'll briefly explain. You can do this exercise at the trot or canter, but I've been doing it at the trot for obvious reasons. We start off with a nice working trot and then I ask her to extend the gait, going twice around the arena. Then I ask her to perform the working trot again, allowing about 3 strides for her to switch back. 2 laps of that, rinse and repeat.
We had a tough time with the extended trot portion of the exercise (OMG!) but she was really going nicely at the working trot. Normally she moves like a freight train and getting her to slow down is the challenging part.
I also saved the canter portion of the ride for last as I've been doing since I started riding again. She is notorious for getting hyper after the canter and sometimes trying to get her mind back on work after the canter is pointless. So by saving it for last, all we have left is the cool down portion of the ride and I don't need her engaged much for that. I've really been working on my position when I ask her to canter too. Because of her explosive transitions into the canter, I tend to lean forward slightly and also pull back slightly on the reins when I ask. So that makes her heavy on the forehand and causes her head to shoot up... amazing how her behavior affects my behavior and vice versa. So I sat tall, gave her some rein, and asked. She still took off like she's being shot out of a cannon, but I'm hoping with time and real concentration on my part, the transition will get easier. She did slow right down when I asked, and we had a few good strides where she didn't need the half halt.
The best part came after I asked her to trot and then walk... she actually DID walk! She put her head down in a "man that was hard work and I'm tired" kind of way and walked on a loose rein until I gathered her back up to canter in the other direction. When we switched directions, I didn't have to circle her 15 times to get her mind focused on listening to my cues instead of trying to read my mind and anticipate the canter. Our canter transition was just like the transition in the other direction, which would normally be quite a challenge.
All this with gale force winds! I expected her to be much more difficult to get focused... could it be the lack of grain products in her system? It's been a week since she's been off the SafeChoice.
I must say that my new irons are awesome. This is the first ride where I've used them at the trot for an extended period of time and at the canter at all. I feel really stable and really secure.