Brave and Careful.

I took Reason to ride at the arena on Tuesday evening.  The last few days have been warm, Tuesday was no different reaching into the 90’s.  Where in the world did 90 degree temperatures come from, in the middle of October, no less!?  I am no fan on the heat (long time readers know this well), so I waited until around 4 in the evening to trailer the horses over to ride.  There were two other riders there already.  It was nice to have some company and new things for Reason to look at.  The people had dogs (which make Reason nervous when he can’t walk right up to them), so it was a good time to school him through the distractions.  All this exposure he’s been getting as of late has been so good for him!

The ride was pretty good.  But it was more just working Reason through the surroundings verses getting down to work.  I wanted to get some canter stuff in there as I was anxious since having help on Saturday with that.  It was important for me to get right down into the hard stuff and face it head on, then to just casually work into it.  The first canter departs were OK.  Reason tried to get light in the front but it’s so far from what it was ever before, that I just have to push him through to the other side.  I have to open the canter up, pushing him through a door, to get him to the other side so he can actually relax within the pace and not bunch up.  Once I give him that direction and I can feel him go “through” it’s smooth sailing.  I have to also remind myself to be light, but settle as soon as I get him going.  I have a tendency to continue to push him and drive unnecessarily with my seat which sends mixed signals and doesn’t convey the relaxation I actually want.  My two largest things are those; getting Reason to flow into the canter depart and for myself to be quiet once he’s there.

After addressing the canter, I just wanted to work on Reason coming over his back to finish the ride.  Very much like the canter, he will be stiff and rigid until you push him ‘through’.  Once he’s ‘there’, he loves it and will work with you in that place and try to figure it out.  I tried to get long and low, to get the hind engaging, to get the shoulders up, anything, but it was so far between because of the distractions.  Going left was especially hard.  It’s definitely his un-favorable side.  He was not moving away from my leg and his neck was stiff.  There was no bend.  Everything felt seemingly flat.  I kept asking, but Reason was getting mentally tired.  He just wasn’t working with me and as I kept asking, he kept distancing.  So I stepped it back a notch, did some non-nonchalant trotting and walking and called it a night.

There was a lot of action for Reason to handle, even though he did well.  I could have done better as a rider, but hind-sight is 20/20.  I’m not sure how I would have handled the ride differently, or what I would have done differently, though I am constantly thinking about it.  Overall I was happy to just get that cantering in there!  Oh yea and that Reason is an awesome loader now!  He hops right in and out of the trailer.  He’s also hauling better and coming off the trailer with less nervous sweat.  Now he knows fairly well that where-ever we go will be something new and exciting.  Yay for huge progress in that department!

To end the night, I un-tacked Reason and took him to the trail ‘obstacle’ area to explore some of the stuff there.  One cool thing – a horsey teeter-totter!  Reason stepped right on without a second thought.  He did try to jump off of it, instead of walk across it, but after a couple of times, he walked all the way, and it tipped downward and he stepped off.  He’s pretty darn brave, getting confident and as always remaining careful.  Jumping may very well be in his future.

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Education Odometer – First Outing

Reason enjoying breakfast before the day started at his first Play Day.

Reason hit his first, real trail ride Sunday.  Well first real one with some actual hills, rocky crossings and narrow paths.  I guess that’s what constitutes as a ‘real’ trail ride, anyway.  This was his 3rd time being out for this type of ride.  This particular park has Frisbee golf on a majority of it’s smaller property.  Being Sunday, I was expecting to see a lot more people than we’ve encountered before and some golfers.  Matt thought it was going to be interesting with that added element.  But I wasn’t worried about it and figured Reason was going to fare well.  Reason loves people and being around them and I think is more comforted by the sight of people just enjoying a good time, so the Frisbee was a second thought.  It was, no big deal.  We hit the trail with another couple.  Reason was in company, though the two guys rode ahead of us on their mares, leaving my friend and I riding together on our geldings for most of the ride.  Reason got nervous when Errika was too far ahead, but it was great for Reason to 1) ride with another horse, 2) trust me to get him through being some distance away from his mare.

During our short ride, Reason wasn’t exactly a calm cucumber, especially (and what I generally think it was) because Errika was lead horse and Reason was trailing behind.  He’s attached, really attached.  But his head was on straight, so I just sat up there and enjoyed the company and scenery giving him space and not crowd his already thinking brain.  He relaxed as the trail ride was coming to an end.  For his first time riding out with company and in a new place, I was proud of him and it’s just another trip we can add to his education odometer!

Reason and I on our Sunday trail ride with friends.
Me on Reason and Errika guarding one of his ribbons.

Last weekend Reason went to his first playday.  Like I wrote before, I thought this would be a great first outing to a kind-of show, type environment.  Some horses may need a buffer like this and others may not.  We aren’t in any rush to do anything or get anywhere, and I’d rather take my time to make sure he’s brought along with the wellness of his mind as top priority.  Reason does in fact need this buffer, although I think it’s most in part due to his attachment to Errika.  Actually I think Reason and I are being cheated out of seeing how things have changed because the focus is on not leaving his herd mate anywhere we go.  I don’t get a chance to see how he’s truly grown with that extra influence.  But I can see beyond that to a degree, and I do see a much more confident and stable horse than I’ve ever seen before and so, I will just go with the herd dynamic flow at this current point in time.

Reason and I head out to do his first ever [slow] pole bending pattern.
The playday went well.  It was a friend’s birthday so Reason was able to hang with a whole new group of horses he’d never seen before.  He was well-behaved and loved being in the sights of horse and human affection.  We had many compliments.  People loved the big dark horse!  We had adults and little girls coming up and asking about him.  I was proud to tell them he was in fact and off track Thoroughbred and this was his first ever ‘event.’  One of the ladies who put on the show said she was “impressed” with what I was doing with him.  I was thankful to just be there, on my horse and to let people get up close and personal with him.  We were a little bit out-of-place with all the western gear and looked more like we were ready to hit the jumper ring, but everyone was really nice and accepting.  I love being in a place with such nice people just wanting to have a good time!

The warm-up was slightly sketch.  I didn’t have a chance to lunge Reason.  It was a cool, brisk morning and he was a little fresh.  He was a little wondrous about the sudden ‘paddock’ we entered.  I felt him jolt a little underneath me as we made our way into the large outdoor.  The arena wasn’t bustling as your typical schooling ring would be.  Being that first time, in that new place, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect nor wasn’t sure how Reason was going to react initially.  One of the reasons I think going to a lower-key event such as this one, was a perfect introduction to the new world of ‘paddocks’ and rings and the world of showing.  I felt Reason get light in front when I to asked him to go forward.  He was reluctant to leave his mare, Errika.  Although she stood calmly at the fence.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to hold it together completely.  When things aren’t always on his terms, especially in these situations, he has tendency to get frustrated and will try many tricks to get through it, in his own way.  I wasn’t sure if the rearing tendency was going to, rear its ugly head or not.  It didn’t, but Reason did scoot and hop about sometimes.  I used my little box of tools to deter it even though at first I was nervous about the possibility of having to school through rearing.

Another shot of Reason enjoying breakfast. Handsome guy!

I know I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was and I couldn’t help it.  I tried really hard to buckle down and focus my attention to the sights and sounds around me. –  The noise of crunching as we trotted along, the sand footing beneath us.  The cool air.  The lofty and floating trot Reason was doing (boy did that feel great!  I can’t imagine how it looked.)  The reins resting on my pinkie finger.  My leg sitting quietly against Reason’s barrel.  Eventually as best I could, I just lulled myself into a rhythm and went along with the ride.  Nothing in particular was being asked, just that he travel forward and in a somewhat large circle at one end of the arena.  Periodic halting and other things to put some emphasis on the braking and steering system.  It wasn’t soon into the warm-up that Reason put on the ritz and just went.  And boy did he.  The trot I was feeling was something out of a fairy tale.  Probably the unrefined floating, free trot you like to see in an upper level Dressage test.  Man I want to relive that trot over and over.  It’s the same trot I’ve seen him do freely, showing off in the pasture, but have never gotten to ride.  Now I can say I’ve had a glimpse from in the saddle!

Reason going back up through the pattern.

We went around poles for the pole bending class.  Reason has never done this, but we walked and did some trotting through the pattern.  I was able to use this class to bounce him off different legs as the pattern required.  It was actually really neat to do that with him.  It will be definitely something I incorporate with his training here and there.  Nothing like adding in something totally from left field to keep things from becoming monotonous.

Reason and I also did barrel racing (without the racing).  This was totally weird to him, going around barrels and such.  But he looked once, and just went.  Most of his focus was on not leaving Errika.  The mere fact that he stayed with me through all this and didn’t throw me or just handle the situation his own way, was the most important thing to me though.  I felt like he was listening and trying really hard to be good in what was occasionally a stressful and confusing situation for him.  My job was just to sit there, put my heels down, stay relaxed and guide him along.

What’s he thinking?

It was a great experience for Reason.  I don’t think we could have started his future showing experience on a better foot.  It was a great test, a great schooling opportunity and he was set up well for it.  I was proud of him and thankful to have been apart of it.

We are planning on riding in a real arena a couple days a week now on a regular basis, trail riding and attending another playday at the end of the month.  More exposure and more fun!
Here is a video during the end of the day.  I was trying to get Reason to just chill some more and eventually walk without the need to break into the trot.  (Yes, I am on the wrong diagonal.  I rarely pick up the right one when I’m not paying attention to my equitation.  Sorry for the shaky video.   You have been warned if you get motion sickness!)