The Bounce – part deux

Yesterday, I set up a gymnastic based on the following diagram:

Slide1The gymnastic was adjusted to reflect the actual size of our sand ring, and I eliminated the final vertical. I also shortened the distances slightly – 18′ to the first cross rail after the bounce pole, 42′ to the three stride cross rail.

To start, I set up a low cross rail (about 18″) followed by a pole on the ground (9′ or three steps distance), followed by another 18″ cross rail 18′ (six strides) past the bounce pole. The final fence in the lines was another cross rail, about 2′ high, set up to develop into an oxer.

Dayo and I trotted into the gymnastic, cantering out. To begin, we started in one direction (left rein) and got used to the gymnastic. Dayo’s first attempt was stellar. I think she was not sure what had hit her and had to solve problems through. The second she approached with a great deal more trepidation, and required significantly more support through the leg. The third attempt, she refused to pick up a canter after the first cross rail, but corrected herself with encouragement, and finished well.

The fourth time through Dayo was confident, and I gave her a fifth time just for additional confidence. After each attempt, I asked her to hold her canter and cantered her in a circle, alternating left and right.

We then switched approach direction to the right rein. There is a new mare in the pasture, and Dayo had a hard time focusing (to the right, she can look directly into her paddock and watch the new intruder eating her hay!). It was a bit of a cluster, but we finished with a flourish and circled at the canter, working on a successful and smooth downward transition.

My goal had originally been to increase the difficulty of the gymnastic, but I decided yesterday to leave the learning at a success. Through the last two times, Dayo got increasingly fast as she got super confident. Once she got it, she loved solving the puzzle of it. To make her think, I asked her to shorten her stride toward the final element, putting in four strides rather than three. She did it like a champ.

I did notice that I had a tendency to look down over the first two elements of the gymnastic, which did not give Dayo the support she needed. She also has an ongoing tendency to drift to the left and this came into play for us between the second and the final cross rail.

Although I don’t like to repeat exercises two days in a row, we are going to incorporate a part of the gymnastic into our school today, with a one stride in and out to a three stride oxer. We may start with a refresher over the gymnastic before I adjust it. Our focus will be improved straightness (Dayo) and looking up (me). The two are likely related ­čÖé

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Dayo goes to work

This Monday started like many Mondays this summer, an early morning at the barn to avoid the heat of the day to school Chaos in preparation for an upcoming show, and to spend time with Dayo.

Dayo, who had been enjoying some “free time” during the heat wave, also came in for a brushing, to be rinsed, and possibly lunged. This time, the Dayo who came in from the field was different. Usually so well behaved, she danced around Max (who was leading her in), spooked at the white patio chairs by the door, and tried to trample Richard. In the cross-ties, she moved around, pawed, yawned, paced, pushed and pooped. Repeatedly. In the round pen, she spent several minutes busting some pretty impressive moves – half passes, piaffes, a capriole and a ballotade or two… very haute ecole as she was trying to break through the fence before she settled down to be lunged. It turns out that Dayo, the mare who just one month before couldn’t believe she had to spend a night in nature with the mares, had become a little herd bound.

And so, it was officially time to go to work.

So far, one of the great joys of working with Dayo is her absolute calmness in the face of new things. She seems to take everything in stride, and while confidence is an issue for her when she doesn’t know what is expected, she is very trusting with new “ideas”, learns quickly, and does not like to make a mistake. She started the work week with an hour on the cross ties learning to settle down and focus. She was brushed, booted, clipped, polo’ed (several times because someone had rolled the polo bandages up backwards, and bandaging is not one of my core strengths!). Then we took the plunge, and put a saddle on her back.

Of course, the entire adventure was a non-event. The saddle pad went on. Nothing. An Ogilvie pad. Nothing. Saddle. No reaction. Girth came next, with a brief pause for station identification as we tried to figure out sizing (it seems that Evelyn, the consummate Western trainer and rider, has at least one English leather girth in every size from 44″ to 56″!). Dayo stood patiently through it all, resigned to not being with the girls, and interested in watching Evelyn and I sort through the girths. Saddled, Dayo went out to lunge. And she was a pro.

Wednesday, there was a marked improvement in Dayo’s behaviour. She settled right in to the cross ties, was relaxed and calm. We decided to add the bridle. Dayo is track broke, so she has worn one before, but that was five years and a couple of babies ago. Once again, Dayo proved that she is nothing if not reasonable when something is properly presented. She lowered her head, opened her mouth, and voila. We put on some smashing white polos, and took a tacked up and shining mare out for a short photo shoot. Richard very kindly helped her to stand properly (this , I understand, is called showmanship, and apparently I don’t know much about it. I went from “hold your horse” girl to “shake the halter in an interesting way to get the horse to prick up its ears” girl in a matter of seconds!)

Dayo is dressed up and ready to go Dayo look spectacular

Dayo looked spectacular. And she was – she lunged with the bridle Wednesday and Thursday, and has started reading cues so well she will now transition up and down based almost completely on voice and body language.