11.05.13: Navigating the Humps and Divets

It took me longer than I wanted to get the saddle widened, but we eventually did it, and so on the last day before a week of rain (and the last week before our next lesson) I was able to get out and ride. The weather had been threatening rain, but I took all the proper precautions (closed the windows, recovered the grill, parked under the parking deck at work and wore my rain coat) and it stayed dry.
Much to my delight, Storm seemed at least interested in interacting, and came to me from the grass when he saw me as I got down into the bottom of the pasture. I haltered him up and took him up to the barn and groomed and tacked him in the barn due to all the commotion going on outside with the Bowmen's event happening. He was in a really good mood, and only got worried once when the horses came running up to the front of the pasture for water. I gently kept requesting that he put his head down again, and he finally relaxed again. I put the saddle up and added the extra pads back in, hoping that I had a good combination.
We headed to the arena to get started, and I got him set up in the balance bands again. I sent him out on the lunge line and let him work for a little while. He settled into the work nicely and began to stretch into the bands. I asked him to move up to the trot so that he would reach forward into the bands rather than tuck behind the bit to release the pressure. Once he was able to find his balance and then get into position 2B, I asked for the canter. He squealed, lunged forward, cantered sideways and then spun his hindquarters out so that he was facing me. I gently asked him to move on again and quickly picked up the trot and then the canter again. He moved off into the canter nicely and was able to support himself in the gait much better the second try. I let him settle back into the trot and then the walk again before I asked for another transition. I worked him allowing him to move up and down through the gaits as he worked on his balance. I asked for a few more canter transitions, which less drama this time, though he still was having trouble making the upward transition into the gait. Working at the canter was distinctly improving his trot and walk, so we used it several times to practice getting better.
I changed directions and worked to the right, and found the same result. Interestingly, he still did the faster and faster thing when he transitioned into the trot, and eventually he did transition up to the canter. I was pleased to see him go into the gait smoothly, but I suspected it was because he was out of balance that he found the need to use speed in the first place. The momentum was all that was holding him up. He worked at it for a while, and got better and more balanced and moved into 2B more often, which is when I would use an upward transition to ask him to reach into the bit rather than sucking behind it. We did not work for much longer before I decided to change to riding.
I got him set up and climbed up and we set off, though he didn't want to move off to the left right away. After we sorted that issue out I was able to really feel that he was out on the left side so I began to work with my weight and my whip to attempt to get him to straighten out. I had a really hard time at first getting him to move off of my leg and get out of doing tiny laps in a quarter of the arena. I kept trying to remember all of the things that I worked on in florida: keep your guts in, slightly forward, feet flat, contact with lower leg and thigh, rein contact on both sides but use one at a time.... It is so much to juggle at once. I noticed my legs trying to creep up the sides, rather than able to stay long and balanced, so I am wondering if I might need to drop my stirrups down a hole to help me find the right center of balance. I also felt like my legs wanted to creep forward, so I need to consider the padding under the saddle, if it was tipped too high in the front it would cause me to fight against being pushed back in the saddle, which could make my feet come forward. All things that I will have to evaluate with Kirsten next week.
I finally managed to get him off of my leg to some degree, and we were making a larger circle than just the corner again and I began to attempt to play with trot transitions. The first few were terrible, as I tried to find my balance, and he wiped out completely to the inside, and then stopped trotting all together. I was slowly able to make a little more sense of how things were working and got a few more slightly better steps out of him. We used the trot to help balance the walk because the trot was so bad that we weren't getting much balance out of it at all!
After we worked for a while, I changed directions and headed off to the right. The right side was trickier, because he was more balanced and was flipping the ball more often. I was doing a decent job at juggling it, but was still having trouble getting him off my left leg, even though it was on the outside now. I ended up carrying the whip on the outside to help support that left side a little better. We worked on walk and trot again, and this way the trot was slightly better, though I was now having more of a challenge with him falling out of the circle. I gave him a few clear taps to make sure he understood that he was not to fall into my left leg, and that it really did mean move over when I applied pressure there. We began trotting again, and I was working to try to correct him when he began to trot faster and faster and faster and I realized that I knew he was going to canter. I somehow made the transition really easily, and sat down and thought about leaning forward and working with the up and down of the canter. We got through the transition smoothly, and he began to stretch down and speed up as he cantered forward, and I realized I probably needed to stop him. He had his head so far down that I had to grab onto his neck to make sure that I stayed in the saddle. It almost turned into a crow hop, but without the hop part (thankfully! I've ridden that and didn't want to go there again). We got stopped and I reorganized myself before working on again. He was giving me some really good steps, and I continually had to keep pushing him forward to attempt to get him out of 2B and into posture 3. It was a lot of work for my legs! I knew he was working hard because every now and then he would lose his balance completely, and it was like we walked through a divet, but there are no divets like that in the arena. And when he got it, he got it really well. Everything underneath me rose up and expanded as if we had walked over a little hump in the ground. His effort was great, and he was obviously nearing the end of what he had the stamina to work on, and so we finished up and stopped for the evening.
I untacked him and was pleased to find that he was evenly wet under the entire saddle pad. I take that as a good sign, and will check with Kirsten when she is here to see her thoughts the fit. I wiped him down with a damp sponge to get the dirt sweat marks off, and cleaned off his sarcoid (which is healing very well with the ointment concoction that Jeffra recommended) and scrubbed some of the poop streaks off his butt and back legs. I guess the grass is REALLY good! He went back into the pasture and rolled right away, as I suspected he would after the hard work we did. Now looking forward to our lesson!
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11.05.21: Long Time Coming