Thursday, June 11, 2015

Riding lately

Riding lately has been great on both horses.

As evident on this blog, I've dabbled in many things with both horses depending on my mood and upcoming events. I feel that versatility is a valuable skill that lends itself to helping develop multiple muscle groups while helping to keep the horse healthy mentally through different routines.

Lately though? Lately I've split up my interests between the two horses.


As my main competition horse for endurance, that's all we've been focusing on recently: time and skills on the trail.

The emphasis for all of our work is ultimately to Gain Confidence, and I can honestly say that she is leaps and bounds ahead of where she used to be with her confidence! It's a wonderful thing.

This boost in confidence stems from a few key things:
  • My attitude: My attitude, demeanor, and general mindset is much improved these past many months. In very short: I'm more zen. Q likes zen. This sensitive little mare needs exactly the kind of behavior I've been putting forth. As a result, she's trusting me more than ever and coming out of her shell more every day. It's terrific to see.
  • Rest vs. work time: I am riding Q about one day a week right now. The rides are longer and
    fairly intense compared to what we used to do. She seems to thrive on having so much time off both physically and mentally. When we do work, she's ON IT and happy about it. There is a marked difference in her strength each time we ride. Her BCS is a bit higher than it usually is, and this really seems to suit her!
  • Type of work: Taking out the jumping and flat work suits this horse for the time being. I know we will pursue flat work again, but for the current time, trails are what are working for her. As I've spent more time working with Griffin over jumps, I realize how stressed it made Q. Her growing confidence may alter her opinion on jumping one day, but for now, it isn't in the cards.

Q's average ride of late is right around 10 miles. In June so far - between two rides - we have covered 21.8 miles. Both of those rides had an emphasis on trying to up our average speed and really work climbing. The 12+ mile ride took 1:52 and involved >2300' of climbing with an average speed of 6.73 mph. The 9+ mile ride took us 1:10 to complete at an average pace of 7.8 mph. She had 5 days of rest between these two rides and will have as long of a break or longer before the next ride.

Spooking? On the 12+ mile ride, she was great until we were within 2 miles from home and then she just got stupid. Words were spoken. Training occurred. The drama would have been less if I'd had reins that didn't slip so easily when wet. (Being close to home on that particular trail 110% plays into her stupidity. Training will continue to occur to work through the issue.)

I fixed the reins issue for the 9+ mile ride to eliminate it as a point of contention. I also removed the padded noseband cover for her S-hack to have a little bit more pressure when I needed it (when she acts a fool she tries hard to run through the hack; she can be stopped, but I don't like using that kind of force). She Did Not Spook for this ride. The biggest reason for her not spooking beyond me setting her up for success on trails I knew she was more confident on: moving out at a faster clip. Pushing her harder, making her really move on trail kept her brain off potential monsters. Working was the only thing that could consume her mind at the time.

No, I won't always work her hard like that. But I do believe that riding in this manner for a short time is going to be beneficial in that it will help her gain further confidence. A few rides in a row with no spooking can only help boost her mentality about things. I know spooking WILL happen again, but I'd like to create as much success as I can for Q right now so that the future spooking is hopefully less intense than what it used to be the majority of the time.

I'm really happy with how Q has been lately and I think she agrees. It's wonderful to get out on trail with a happy horse who is eager to move down the trail without fear over every tiny thing.


With my love of trails and endurance taken over by Q, that leaves my interest in dressage and jumping to Griffin. Both of these disciplines are ones I'm not as confident in, but I'm ever-learning.

It's fitting that I'm pursuing more of these disciplines with Griffin - much of what I have learned about training has happened with this horse. If you'll recall way back to the beginning of my time with him 3 years ago, I didn't know much about groundwork. I've learned everything I know thanks to Griffin.

Griffin is a forgiving teacher-student. As I learn things and strive to teach him, he's forgiving of my beginners errors. We work together to figure it all out. His straight forwardness aids greatly in my work with Q. By figuring out how it *can* and *should* be with him, I'm able to troubleshoot with Q, my sensitive little girl.

My goal each week right now, is to ride Griffin 4 days a week for 20-45 minutes. Ultimately we end up riding 2 or 3 days, but shooting for 4 is a good goal. (Also good? Me not beating myself up for *not* reaching the goal. I've been quite successful in that goal I mentioned at the beginning of the year: fly the "fuck it" flag more often.) All of these rides are flatwork with no jumps.

Griffin LOVES working more. LOVES IT. I've never spent so much time with a horse who wanted to please so badly. It is his only goal in life.

He still throws tantrums sometimes, but these days those tantrums are because he is smart and he thinks he knows the answer. He anticipates what the answer is and should be, tries to answer, and then if I was looking for a different answer from his, he gets upset. I've been praising him a lot for all of his efforts lately, so these tantrums have been cut off before they ever escalate. It's a nice change!

Except one ride, all of our current rides have been done with the bareback pad. I want more of a workout for myself and I want a closer connection with Griffin as we work through things.

We're working our way up from the bottom of the dressage pyramid. Our rides are predominantly walk, but trot work is thrown in more and more as time passes. Griffin seems please with this. His typical answer of, "CANTER! CANTER IS ALWAYS THE CORRECT ANSWER!" isn't in the forefront of his mind any more. He is happy with walk exercises and trot exercises. In fact, he's not tried to randomly canter more than 2x in each of our last rides - a huge difference!

We're just at the beginning of this journey, stumbling along together, but we're having fun! If Saiph gets her way, we'll be pursuing horse trials next year... I've got a lot to learn before then though!

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