09.06.07: Listing to Port

Since the clinic group that was at Graham for the weekend was not using the arena, I headed out to the barn to get Storm ready to spend a bit of time riding. I headed out in the pasture to get him, and couldn't see the herd at first. I finally discovered them all in the run-in shed swishing flies and stomping up dust. When he saw me, he came out of the back of the run-in (prestigious spot, don't ya know), and over to me. I brought him up to the barn and began scrubbing off the dirt from the rain storms and rolling of the past few days. I spent a while grooming him over nicely, and actually brushed out his mane and tail, which I had not done in a long time. He was very patient and relaxed, which made it very easy to work on him for a while. I even ended up vacuuming him due to the volume of hair that he is still shedding and the dirt combined. I still can't quite figure out how he spent three weeks in Florida for an early jump start to serious shedding and STILL be shedding now.
I finally had everything together and headed down to the arena to do a little bit of long lining before I got up to ride, since the round pen was unavailable. I drug two poles out for him to walk over, and was able to use the dressage letters that a friend had set up in the morning for her own practice before heading to a show. It was nice to have some guidance on the circle to keep myself in the correct position so that Storm could actually do his job. I was still having a bit of trouble keeping him moving at a good pace, he seems to start trudging along pretty slowly. I am beginning to suspect that the exercise is not as useful as it was prior to beginning to work on the riding aspect of balance.
I finally switched out the long lines for his reins and took him to a shady spot on the fence and asked him to mount. He actually allowed me to mount from the right side, which was a change from the previous pattern. He was not even allowing his right side to get close to me, mostly swinging his hindquarters away from me completely when I asked him to approach from the right. He offered to allow me to mount on the first pass, which was nice, and continued to stand still once I was up on his back. I am not sure what the change was from this mindset to the previous one when he walked off right as I settled into the saddle, but I was pleased that he made the change. i was able to get the lead rope dallied up on the saddle, and then start off walking when I asked him to go forward.
I stayed away from the end quarter of the arena since the other group was working at the round pen and the clinician had her extra horses standing outside of the round pen. I did not want to create any unwanted introductions. Storm responded well to turning before the end of the arena, and it helped to give me another movement without the fence line to support his straightness. He was responding well at the walk, dropping his head and neck and lifting his back. I was concentrating on keeping my weight on the left to help push his ribs back to the center again, and he was stretching frequently when I encouraged the bend in his neck.
I asked him for a trot and he was slow to pick up the trot, but maintained the slow easy gait as we began our work. I did better at staying with his motion when he sped up the gait as I began to ask him to push the ribs back towards the right and straighten himself out. He stretched well, though, and I was able to ask him to slow down again and get reorganized. We worked for a while this way, and then he abruptly dropped back into a walk fairly suddenly. I let him walk out for a while, and he took the time to stretch out on his own very well.
I repeated the trot work a few more times, though he continued to abruptly drop the trot after a few laps. The steering is still not very controlled while I work on the stretching, but he seems to be getting a bit better at maintaining the direction that we were going, rather than swerving when I begin to ask for his ribs to move over and the bend in his neck. It is much easier to work on that when there are not 18 people in the arena with you. Steering issues aren't too much of a problem with no competition!
I finally walked him out for a while longer, and then brought him back up to the barn to take all his tack off and rinse him off a bit. I gathered my things and headed up the hill, and began the whole process in reverse. I got to the saddle, and pulled it off and checked out the sweat marks. It looks like there was a bit of ruffled hair on the right side, but I was not sure if that was from riding or from pulling the saddle off. Its a challenge to lift a saddle off when his back is already over your head! I went around to the left side and to my dismay found a rather large dry spot in the midst of the sweat. Apparently, I had been putting a bit too much emphasis on the left side which explained his dropping the trot so abruptly when he had not been doing that before.
So now the pendulum must swing back into balance again. I experimented and went a bit too far. Now I know where the edge is, and am armed with more questions to ask in my next lesson, which is thankfully on Saturday! I finished untacking him and grabbed a bucket and sponge and rinsed off the sweat. I guess it is a testament to his fitness that he had not broken a sweat anywhere else, despite a bit of humidity in the air. I took him down to the arena for a chance to roll, but he wasn't interested, so I returned him to the grass with his friends.
Next Page:
09.06.13: Brought to you by the letter B and the number 8