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

Friday, December 3, 2010

Round 2 with the Natural Performer

Last night was the second ride in my saddle.  It was better than the first.

We started out with some ground play.  Using the 45', I stood about 30' away and asked her to play Touch It with the bridges and the barrels.  She was not wholly confident and kept looking to me for clarification.  I was pleased with how much she checked in.

After that I played a little with half-circles and some sideways away and towards.  She's finally getting the hang of trotting sideways towards me.

Then onto circle game and the dreaded canter.  Ugh!  If I ever truly solve the puzzle of Cricket's canter, I'll know I have savvy!  Tried "go slower."  Didn't exactly work.  Tried falling leaf.  Didn't exactly work.  Tried transitions.  Didn't exactly work.  Tried tagging where she'd been.  Didn't exactly work.  Finally, I got fed up.  Not mean or mad, I'd just had enough.  It's like when you say to your kids, "I feed you, I clothe you, I put a roof over your head - I am not asking too much."

I switched to a snappy back-up.  I wasn't looking for speed but that little extra effort.  That moment where she turns loose and says, "yes ma'am."  When I we got that, I asked for some snappy squeeze.  And BAM! there was the canter.  Forward, true three-beat, jackpot!

On to saddling and riding.  Cricket's main interest in saddling was the cookies.  I'd used treats with her the previous night to surprise her and turn her negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  I forget that is a bit of a backfire with her because it almost "trains" her to be snotty.  She wasn't bad but it's not exactly easy to saddle a horse that puts her nose of her flank looking for a cookie.  But she was good.

Mounting - no problem; standing after mounting - small problem.  I realized I was sort of holding my breath and she was interpreting that as "do something."  We spent most of our ride at the trot but with a good bit of walking.

Cricket is really stretching down at the walk and the trot.  I like this because it indicates she is very free over her back.  I don't like this because it puts too much weight on the forehand and if she's set-up for a buck if she takes a sudden dislike to something I ask.

At one point she offered a very snarky canter.  I tried to ride it out but it wasn't pretty and I didn't feel secure.  I really felt Cricket was taking too much leadership. So I changed tactics to partial disengagement and that helped her relax a little.  Then we did "almost trot" transitions until she was relaxed enough to do actual walk-trot-walk transitions.

I played with concentrated rein turns on the HQ - which she executed with near perfection.  Ed asked if we did much of that Freestyle.  Not so much because it works best with a CS and Cricket bites the CS.  In the spirit of not setting up roadblocks, I decided to try it.

YOWZERS!  Cricket gave me some soft, relaxed FH yields with just the tiniest hint of stick to support.  Amazing what our horses can do if we just let them.

It wasn't, by any means perfect.  She bit at the stick a few times and I just did my best to work through it.  I'll have to say she was better than she's been in ages.

We finished with some concentrated rein trotting with some transitions and thrown in.  Our last transition, she was coming out of the halt into a walk.  I asked for the trot and she eased into the softest canter.  Rode it down the rail, stopped and called it a day.  I stayed on her as she processed through everything and then got off.