Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making (somewhat) Steady Progress in Suki's Training

I can't believe that it is almost the end of July.  So far the temperatures have been tolerable, but august can be an entirely different story!  Fingers crossed that we cruise through the rest of the summer without temperatures in the upper 90sF and heat index in the 100s.  Although there has been a reasonable amount of rain (the fields are still pretty lush) the ground has been hard from time to time which is tough on the horses' legs.  Suki is barefoot so I really notice a bit of ouchiness when the arena footing has become a bit too hard for her.  That backs us off the lunging portion of work, but there are plenty of other exercises that we can work on.

I spoke to my farrier today about Suki's feet and questioned whether or not she needs shoes.  My concern is that Suki is a bit ouchy when the footing is hard, so this impedes our work, because I don't do as much with her (or Nikki) during that time.  J is not concerned about the chipping (I always get anxious about it though!) but one of his concerns is that it would probably be difficult to put nails in her feet since the fire.  He said he can tell by a horse's skin how good their feet are, and since the fire, things are not quite the same for Suki as they were before.  Interesting....i hadn't thought about that.  So he would prefer not to put shoes on her unless we do glue ons.  His recommendation is to wait and just try to get through the couple of months when this is a problem.  We will revisit the glue on scenario next year if Suki is under saddle and doing more work.  Makes sense to me!

Sunday, July 20, 2014
I love when Suki and Nikki come to the gate to greet me in the morning.  Sometimes they follow as I drive down the driveway, other times they wait but are at the gate or by the fence by the time I get out of my car.  Mornings that are cool and bug free are a little different.  On those days I have to go out into  the field to retrieve them, but they don't usually give me a hard time about coming in.  Of course they don't always walk toward me either.  Sometimes the two of them will just watch me approach!  I always bring treats and put on Suki's lead rope.  Nikki usually follows behind....not too close because Suki will turn a round and make a face at her!  It is usually quite peaceful though.

Nikki decided to give me a slightly hard time mounting today, but it wasn't bad enough to require the mounting/dismounting session, thankfully.  She started a bit sluggish even after stretching during a short warm up lunge, but within a few minutes the energy increased and we were motoring along nicely.  I started with big loopy serpentines at the rising trot which definitely helped Nikki get her muscles moving and loose.  The bugs were somewhat distracting, causing Nikki to dip her head to try to bite the green heads landing on her chest!  Once we set to work doing lateral work and constant changes of direction, that too seemed to stop and she worked quite nicely.  I have issues with my aids for shoulder-in right.  I think that I am holding too much with the left rein, and perhaps blocking forward movement too much.  I am able to get a few steps of half pass from that position, but something seems not totally correct.  I need to see a video of what I am doing to help me resolve that one.  I kept the ride fairly short due to the harder-than-preferred ground.

For the past week or so (?) I have been putting the surcingle on Suki and walking her around.  Then I added a few trot steps.  Today was the first day of actually putting her out on the lunge line and having Suki trot out.  I admit that there was some anxiety (on my part!) involved in this next step.  I wasn't sure if Suki would buck or leap, causing the surcingle to slip back.  So snugness of fit was critical.  Tightening the girth one more time before we walked out of the barn I felt pretty confident.  The arena footing was a little hard for Suki since she does not wear shoes so I decided to bring her out behind the barn in the paddock.  Moving her out on the lunge I asked for a few walk halt transitions then tightened the girth again.  Holding my breath, ever so slightly I gave the trot command and off she went!  The presence of the surcingle did not appear to make a difference in attitude or movement.  One more step in the journey!  I praised her heartily then we did a few leading exercises and finished the session.  When I removed the surcingle I hopped up on the step stool to look at Suki's back (no, I cannot see it from the ground!) and everything looked great under the pressure of the surcingle!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I try to work Suki every other day, and only occasionally work her two days in a row.  In between we do work in hand, leading exercises and/or stretches.  The schedule is also dependent, of course, on footing conditions.  So today was a lunging in the surcingle day.  I love when I have finished grooming her that I throw the saddle pad onto her back, just like old times!  This time we walked out to the arena, although she did balk just a bit as we exited the barn.  I thought at first that it was because of the surcingle but then realized that Sammy the pony had just come up to the fence and startled her.  Suki walks so quietly and happily to the arena (knock on wood), tail happily moving back and forth with her gait.  She seems so at peace.

As  I moved Suki out onto the circle of the lunge she nickered once to Nikki in the barn, who of course, responded, then set out to work.  On days when she seems more distracted I start with several walk-halt-walk transitions in rapid succession to build her concentration.  She was pretty focused today, so after a few circles at the walk I asked for the trot.  That first transition was not completely smooth but I believe it was probably because of the surcingle.  Suki trotted out fine after that initial hiccup, and the next transition was fine.  The session was really just about moving forward and comfortable for continued adjustment to wearing the surcingle.  We still have a long way to go but I do feel like we are making progress!

Thursday, July 24, 2014
A beautiful cool, breezy, overcast morning.  This is especially helpful when I can't get to the barn until 9:15 AM!  I caught Nikki snoozing when I walked in the barn, which is very uncharacteristic for her.  She likes her sleep, and loves to lie flat out but is always the first to call out to me when I get out of the car.  Nikki got right up when she saw me, somewhat embarrassed!

Nikki was a little on high alert because of the wind and cooler temperatures....and the blue heron who was getting ready to take flight.  She relaxed, although I think that one ear was slightly cocked in the direction of the heron.  Once he/she left Nikki relaxed completely.  Yes, I should have been able to keep her concentration, but sometimes life happens around you.  We worked on 10 meter figure 8 trot circles with a brief walk transition at the center of the figure.  This forced Nikki to rock back and use her hind end and really pay attention, as the figure was small and the changes occurred rather quickly. After a bit of that exercise we did serpentines at the rising trot the full length of the arena to let her stretch out a bit.  Then I went back to shortening and lengthening of stride.  We finished with a bit of leg yielding then a big stretch down at the trot.  It was a good ride.

For Suki's lunging session I opted for one without the surcingle.  And she was ready to go!  I think she was actually MARCHING out to the arena.  The cool breeze gave her a bit of energy, and the rain from the night before made the arena footing soft and beautiful, so Suki was feeling great.  When I asked for the first trot transition she squealed and tossed her head.  I love when she has that kind of energy.  Suki seemed so happy and free in her work.  Her walk was beautifully forward with a big over step, the trot was huge and springy and the canter big and up in her back.  To finish I let her just walk forward and stretch down.  She looked relaxed and rather pleased with herself!

Saturday, July 26, 2014
A cloudy start to the day and the girls were chilling in the middle of the field when I arrived.

Nikki got up as I led Suki away then trotted to the gate ahead of us.  Suki did not like that very much!  She shook her head and pinned her ears at nikki as she trotted past her!  But as Suki and I approached the gate Nikki respectfully stepped aside to let Suki out.

So we continue to motor along in our progress and yes, the progress is steady and I think I really am enjoying the journey......

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