Posted by: shannonc | May 30, 2009

Cold and wet, but happy

The pony had a big week in his continued campaign to dominate the people, places, ducks, birds, dogs and jumps of the world!

To help him settle in his job and gain mileage, I’ve been trying to get him off the property at least 1-2x/week with a focus on keeping everything I ask of him fun and well within his capability zone.  Sometimes that’s just a visit to a friend or a solo hack to conservation land up the street, but this week we scored two lessons.  This is the first week with work that intense, but his conditioning is coming along well and I thought he was ready.

I was a little worried last week because he’d developed a cough.  The pollen counts have been through the stratosphere…I talked with my vet and she felt pretty confident it was allergy, so the pony started getting some good old fashioned Robitussin.  He seems to love that medicinal cherry taste (yuck!) and is feeling much better.

Adding a dimension to this week’s portfolio of experiences is the strange weather – last week, 90s, this week upper 40s and wet.  As we all know, there is some sort of magnetic attraction between events and rain, so this was a good test of his work ethic and sensitivity to subpar conditions.

When the cold first hit, I went down to the barn and found two completely nutty horses.  An inauspicious start!  The first day, I rode the pony early, before his full turnout, and I felt like it was all he could do to keep his lid on.  We did a lot of 10m circles, figure 8s, and serpentines that day, and no canter work.  He paid attention as long as I kept him busy, and finally did some stretching.  Afterwards when I turned him out, he ran around bucking and really blew off some steam!  I broke down and started sheeting him – I’m really happy with his weight, but he’s much more in eventing than hunter condition, there’s just not a lot of extra fat there, and I think his muscles were getting cold.  I even saw a shiver or two.

Early Thursday morning I tacked him up fully, threw on an antisweat, loaded him up and took him to my friend Vicki’s farm nearby.  She’d offered to let me join the schedule of a dressage instructor, Linda Parmenter, who comes to her.  I had planned to go and watch one day before jumping into a lesson, but scrapped that idea because she only comes every other week and I decided we just could not wait.  We needed a D check in!

On landing, the pony was quite electric.  High headed, snorty, distracted, dancing.  He’s like this every time.  At first, I thought it was a bad sign of things to come and the ride would be a bust, but I’m learning that it’s just his MO.  If I stay relaxed and hand walk, he will settle down.  Trailering with his halter over his bridle installs a fat pacifier of hay in his mouth around the bit, so he walks and chews – it really helps!

The lesson with Linda was wonderful!  Her instruction was very clear and focused.  I’ve been working hard on keeping the pony’s trot the same – he likes to go beautifully for a stride or two, then fall behind my leg, then above the bit, behind the bit, beautifully again, too quick, too slow, perfect, rinse and repeat.  So I’ve been trying to ride the horse I want to have instead of changing every stride to what I do have at that moment.  She helped me take this to the next level – by changing my post a little and extricating me from the argument the pony and I like to get into on the left side, we got him working over his back and trotting along with some brilliance.  I saw foam flying! 

The canter work was difficult and I thought it would be.  His response to my depart aids is to squirt out from under me, so she had me leg-yielding him into it.  We didn’t really get through it, but she gave me some good tools to use at home and said she thinks it’s very close to coming together.  I can feel the timing and she confirmed that my ask is right, so I just need to be patient, not change a million things which will cause confusion for him, and just be ready to praise when his answer is correct.  I think my approach to solo work is to sometimes not push hard enough, so it was really good to hear her reinforce my instincts – she said absolutely keep going for quality, not quantity.  I don’t need to do canter sets, I need to do 20 departs.  When I can get the depart and get a stride or two, then add more.  This was the program I was on – yay!

She was specific and clear about a couple of things she wants me to change and I loved that.  Both of them have to do with using my core better and I left absolutely knowing what my homework is.  I’ll be able to put this to good use right away and hope I get a good report card next time!

A good thing and a funny thing.  The good thing was that she said I’ve done a really nice job with him so far and have brought him along correctly!  The funny thing was that I asked her if she thought we could do a Training level test in a few weeks and she sort of paused.  I could read on her face that she was wondering what the heck to say to this person she’s meeting for the first time and who can’t really canter yet.  She’s a dressage person, right.  She isn’t familiar with my sterling history of 4s or my record of being happy with them <g>.  So I rephrased.  I don’t expect 7s on the canter work in 3 weeks.  I don’t even need 6s!  I just want to get around a test without elimination.  Oh, she said, in that case, I think you’ll be great!  Excellent.  :)

We went home, I grazed the pony, turned him out, and went to work.  The next morning I loaded him up even earlier, in a downpour, to head over to Scarlet Hill where Sarah and I had a stadium lesson scheduled.  THE stadium lesson.  The one where the pony is reintroduced to decorations!

What happens when you leave your coffee in the drive and then run it over with the trailer

What happens when you leave your coffee in the drive and then run it over with the trailer

The pony has plenty of energy to do his landing routine so I figure I didn’t wear him out the day before.  We warm up in the indoor due to the rain and Meredith, you guessed it, wants us to work on the canter.  Sigh.  LOL!  I get one zoomy depart in each direction (interestingly and as a good sign, she also has me doing the leg-yield in.  It’s nice when trainers are consistent this way!) and then she sends me off to the other end of the arena to practice so she can pick on Sarah’s canter for awhile.  Thank goodness for shared lessons – you get a bit of a break sometimes!

Well, I give the pony a little free walk and then pick him up and ask for another canter.  LO AND BEHOLD.  He steps off immediately!  I don’t mind that he falls right back into trot, I make the biggest fuss imaginable.  Goodponygoodponygoodpony!!  Meredith joins in the praise as she’s caught it out of the corner of her eye from the other side.  I change direction and ask again and he gets it again!  She makes me do it twice more and he’s good both times.  She has me keep the canter longer than I really want to, because the quality isn’t quite there yet, but we try.  He’s pretty heavy, and starts swapping behind.  I think he’s probably getting a little tired, especially considering the day before, so I stop on a high note and explain I think this is where he’s at, and remind her we’re still trotting fences.  She agrees but informs me sternly this is my homework.  I know!  I know. 

We go out in the rain to the ring and Meredith sets a big crossrail (yes, the days where “big” + “crossrail” = “oxymoron” are gone!), which the pony leaps over happily as if it were quite a bit higher.  I asked Sarah later if he gave the overjump I thought he did and she said “yep!”  Then a flower box is added underneath and I dutifully but apprehensively circle around.  Pony does not peek at the flowerbox.  I am surprised!  Sarah’s pony is also good so Meredith sets a vertical.  I can’t help it, I take one look at the vertical and my thought comes right out my mouth.  “Oh no.”  It’s probably all of 2 foot 3 but it looks like a monster.  “Don’t worry,” she says, laughing at me, “it’s not for you.”  Phew.  I know she gets the pony program.  I was just checking…

Sarah canters a line of well decorated verticals and a gate and they look great!  Then Meredith puts them down for me, but keeps the decor.  I do a little vertical and then a line of little verticals.  She has us skip the gate and I’m grateful.  The pony is wonderful, not looky, jumping well, and happy.  He wants to quicken his trot quite a bit in the last 3 strides and I try to hold him with my body and post, and not pull, but it isn’t easy.  Jeez.  Who’d’ve thought little jumps could be so difficult.  We’re all soaked by now and happy with our horses, so we call it a day.

Meredith tells me my pony is almost ready for BN.  Like hell, I think.  She seems to want me to ditch Elementary at GMHA and enter BN there instead.  Mmmhmm.  I decide to take this as a vote of confidence that we have a good chance of getting around Elementary :)  She thinks the pony is a cute mover and jumper and getting him successfully to BN will improve his worth and saleability.  I understand and agree completely but am determined to be short sighted and keep taking things one step at a time.  Having lofty goals for the pony just seems like an invitation to disaster.  I’m superstitious that way!  Seriously, I’m just thrilled he’s going so well.

So the schedule is set, providing entries aren’t full – Hitching Post at 18″, GHF Summer Classic at 2’3″ (gulp!), and GMHA Starter Trials at 2’3″ if the Classic goes well.  If it doesn’t, we’ll drop back to 18″.  That takes us through the beginning of July.  Then we’ll see.  I hope the pony keeps having fun at this!



  1. Have we had enough rain yet? I mean SERIOUSLY….It’s almost JUNE already!

    I love the foam flying thing. I would like Kisses to teach Buck that trick.

    More fun to come! And yes, I will TOTALLY help you through Groton House like you did for me today!

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