2016.04.23: Two Times the Grind

April has not been an easy month, and as a result Storm got no work since the last lesson. I gave Kirsten a heads up that I wasn't in a great place, and had no idea what we were going to get for our lesson. I was looking forward to having two long hours to bust through it and really dig in and get through to the other side of some of his issues.
Since Erin and I agreed to work in the paddock I figured it was smartest to allow the horses to have their grass time before our lesson so that their would be fat and happy and hopefully more willing to work. I was pleased when I headed out to get them off the grass and they came in very easily. I was a little disconcerted when I went to give Storm a pat, and he spun away from me before I could get close enough to touch him. That didn't seem to be a good sign.
I collected all our gear and put everything out on the fence in the barn yard so he could graze as I tacked him up. I headed into the pasture to get him and found him already napping. He let me catch him with no trouble, which was a relief, and we mosied back to the barn yard to get ready. He was a little worried about the sounds he could hear from around the corner of the barn where a couple of horses were being loaded onto a trailer, but settled himself quickly. I groomed him and allowed the blowing hair to float away in the breeze (always towards me, despite my best efforts!). I realized I wasn't able to use the surcingle that I brought out because the girth was too long, so Erin held both boys while I ran back to the tack room to switch it out. We got ourselves ready and headed into the paddock and set to work.
I incidentally started on the left, and was pleased to find that he wasn't in a hurry to blast off or blow up. I was being careful to not go there, and was primarily just relieved that he was not working himself up into a tizzy being in the paddock.
Kirsten arrived and rescued all of us, and helped me get him going a bit better. She reminded me to push him to encourage the activity of his hind legs in order for him to have to find his balance. Using his head and neck position as a guide to where his balance was provided me with the information needed to know which changes to make. She left us to experiment and went to help Scooter for a bit since he was really struggling.
Nose poking out means that circles and curves will help him find better balance by forcing him to load the inside hind leg. If he curls behind the bit, then straight lines will help him find the straightness again and reach forward to carry himself. Trotting can help push him into the correct position, no matter how he is losing his balance, and continually combining the slightly increased speed with either curves or straight lines helps him to find the correct body balance. The slight grade variations in the paddock added one more subtle layer of challenge to his work, forcing him to work all that much harder.
We launched into the work and I asked him to work on trotting a lot. His trot was much better balanced than he has been in a long long time, earning the compliments of Kirsten repeatedly. Getting him out of the round pen was a really good thing because it really gave him the room he needs to experiment with more positions. She counseled me my own body position and making sure that the requests were being initiated from my body first, before moving to the whip to achieve results. He was blowing and streaked with sweat (yay!) when we took a break for Kirsten to talk more theory with us. I was relieved to stop moving for a little while, and found Storm content to stand next to me without any fuss at all.
Kirsten went through the theory of how to best support the horses as they work to find their balance and reiterated the adjustments that we needed to make depending on where their balance is. We discussed body position some more, and how to be in the right place at the right time to help best support the horses.
We worked a little bit more in the same direction before switching the setup to go the other way. I quickly discovered that Storm was doing a little better at the walk to the right than he had to the left, but he was still struggling. I did feel like he fatigued a little faster, and that we both go to a point where we were just done. I was getting a little flustered and he was trying his best to figure out what I wanted, but I was a little confused as to how I should best stop his movement.  We finally got ourselves sorted out with Kirsten's help, and called it a day.
I took off the surcingle, and found him quite sweaty underneath, as well as his sides and flanks. I was pleased to see him sweating so much even though it wasn't that hot out, but he was working hard. We let the horses relax and graze in the barn yard for a few minutes, until they clearly were ready to go back into the pasture. They both wanted water, and then promptly rolled to get the sweat and work ick off.
By this time I was completely done. I put everything away and then crashed for the evening! It was good to be back to a longer work time, I think it did both of us good.
As a side note, Sunday afternoon I was feeling a little low and I noticed that Storm was laying down napping when I took the dogs out. I walked out the pasture to say hello to him while he was down, and to my pleasure he stayed down. I sat down next to him and leaned up against his huge shoulder in the warm sun and we relaxed while Simon napped and stood guard. It must have been good for me because both horses licked and chewed several times. After a while I got up and leaned on Storm and scratched away the winter hair that is still falling out. He didn't seem to mind, so I threw my leg over and sat on him and continued to give him scratches. He actually laid out flat with me still sitting on him, which was an amusing experience. I found myself straddling his huge ribs as he sighed heavily and continued napping in the warm sun. He rolled back up and so I sat for a while longer giving him scratches and rubs until Erin turned Scooter out from their work, and then some kids walked down the road headed to the pond. Storm stood up with me on his back, and he shuffled off a little bit, and then I slid down and thanked him for the nice time. It was great to just chill with him and have him be so comfortable and relaxed for so long.
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2016.04.27: Back At It