Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fantastic Weekend

I have fallen in love with Cricket all over again. I can hardly find the words to describe how I feel about my horse and the place in which we find ourselves.

Friday I played with her on the ground. Using a modification to the Figure-8, as suggested by my friend Kathy, I wanted to see if Cricket could find more purpose and thus a happier attitude. I'm not sure what went wrong - or if anything actually went wrong. Cricket has a bit of a LB emotional fit and ended up cantering, full tilt, at the end - and I mean the very end - of the 45' line. She went up and down the terraces, around obstacles and over jumps. She wasn't exactly tuned out but neither was she ready to tune in. I worked with her a little and finally got her to send without flying out. We re-approached the jump that caused her difficulty and when she put forth good try, I called it a win and quit for the day.

We had a "pony party" on Saturday - Genia and Kathy hauled their horses to the barn and Becky, who boards with me, joined up with us. We started with some ground play then broke for lunch and then saddled up to ride in the afternoon.

I revisited the F8 with jumps and Cricket took it like a pro. Her attitude was better using the jumps rather than just going around barrels. Of course my flow was pretty poor but I'll get there. We did a little circle game with maintain gait over the terraces and then a little with good canter departs on the circle.

After lunch we saddled up and rode in the arena for awhile. Cricket was all over the map. First, the strange horses and close quarters brought out a lot of her unconfidence. She was pinning her ears and just thinking evil thoughts. We tried to trot our mile around the rail but she just wasn't in to it. She gave me a super soft little trot but she just wouldn't maintain her gait. I opted not to push the issue with her, feeling it wasn't worth it to argue for the sake of arguing.

When I got a clear end of the arena, I put her on the Question Box pattern and asked for walk and trot transitions. She was soft, responsive and arced nicely on the circle. I asked her for some right lead canter and she was just as willing as could be. It was the first time I had asked her to canter since the end of our 30 day program in November.

We took a little stroll outside the arena and I worked on "don't eat until I say so." It's nowhere near as good under saddle as it is on the ground but we'll get there. I asked her to trot out in the field and eventually she would trot on a loose rein and maintain gait until I asked for the halt.

Sunday I headed out to the barn to ride again. I need to expand the question box pattern to the full figure 8 so I can one day "work" on simple lead changes. I need to increase my confidence with left lead canter. I think Cricket is more comfortable on her left lead but I'm not.

After a brief warm-up on the ground I saddled her up and asked for some follow the rail. Her trot was once again all over the map and she kept trying to canter. What I've realized is that I've relied too heavily on my breathe to cue her for canter. When she hears me inhale, she thinks that means canter. Ugh! So I asked her for the trot and focused intently on a two-beat rhythm in time with my breathing. Finally she stretched way down, nose between her fetlocks, and settled into a lovely soft trot. I think, maybe, she was stretching her back, releasing the tension that's been there for so long.

I put her on the question box, using both sides. I used the open end of the arena for her right bend and the enclosed end of the arena for her left. I have this weird, lingering fear that she'll run away with me. Don't ask.

I played with walking and trotting to the right and then changing the bend to walk and trot to the left. We picked up the right lead for a circle then down to the trot for the left bend. All the while, in my head, I had this idea that this would prepare us for simple changes. But I wasn't ready to ask for the left lead. I came around the right, at the canter, and dropped to a trot in the box and intended to head out to the left at the trot. Cricket - whether she knew what I really wanted or just wanted to show off her utter fabulosity - just eased into a left lead canter.

I wish I could have relaxed better into the left lead. I wasn't ready for it and it took me by surprise. I did manage to canter her back to the box and stop. I jumped off of her and called it a win.

Part of me cannot believe she just offered the simple change. Part of me is not surprised. I wonder how much she felt what I really wanted. I have been so worried and just getting all wadded up over asking for simple changes and she just gave presented me with a lovely, soft, clean change.

I don't know that I'll ride tonight. Maybe just a little ground play, cookies and stretches. We have a cell of nasty weather that won't clear out until tomorrow or Wednesday. But I'm trying to stick to my program - every day until we leave for camp!


Naturally Gaited said...

Wow, Lisa, how cool!

I had to laugh when I read, "When she hears me inhale, she thinks that means canter." So how do you keep from breathing the rest of the time that you are riding? ;-) Actually, I know how because I tend to do it myself. (I really intend to try some yoga techniques on horseback to help with this..)

Thanks for posting.

Lisa said...

Actually, I probably hold my breath more than I think. I have to conciously breathe at the trot to stop from getting tense and thus causing Cricket to be tense.

When cantering, I started using an audible inhale to indicate increased energy for the upward transition. It didn't take Cricket long to put things together and if I breathe too loudly she'll canter when I inhale and slam on the brakes when I exhale. Part of our ride on Sunday was friendly game with my breathing. I metered my breathe to four counts for inhale and exhale and asked her to trot in harmony. Worked like a charm. When we moved to canter, I minimized the breath cue and tried to just use energy.

inchwormwv said...

Awesome - you have so much going on that's good!

Lisa said...

It's been a long rode with dear Cricket. We started together just over six years ago - she was totally green, completely unstarted and I had no idea what I was doing. The road has been rocky but it's been worth it.

I'm so proud of all we've accomplished.

Tina said...

See, you can too do simple changes!!

And, today I had a session with Dixie where she showed her fabulosity at liberty. Thanks for the new word!

Lisa said...

I've ridden Cricket's simply changes. The few times we've done it (and few might be an over-statement) I was on a contact rein.

Cantering freestyle is a little unnerving for me. I'm trying to build the skills we will need for our L3 Freestyle audition. All I wanted was a trot, just come down from the canter and trot the other direction. But NO, my fabulous mare just had to show off how talented she is!

Fabulosity - there's just no better word to describe that moment when your horse lights up and shows you how truly amazing s/he is. Even if it's just a moment, just a glimmer, just a hint - you are reminded why you do all that you do.