Saturday, October 10, 2009

Top's New Attitude

Okay, check out Mr. Chunky-butt. I didn't realize how much weight he'd put on over the last 9 or 10 months. I came across some pictures I'd taken after I'd had him for a month. And I was so pleased with how much weight he'd put on then.
(I have no clue why blogger wont let put in all my paragraphs. It is a blogger mystery.)

This was, I think May '09.

This is Aug of '09.

This picture was taken January of '09. I was so pleased with his gain at this point. UGH. He looks almost racy doesn't he.

With his added pounds has come a calmness he lacked before. He is comfortable now. He seems to like his life. He knows what is expected of him. He really likes structure. It makes sense for him, no big surprises from rider or handler. He has his group of people. He knows his group of people and likes them. Scary loud fast moving people need not apply for a position in Top's world. Erratic or unpredictable people and their actions spin him right out of control. (Big bay Oldenburg in your lap, seeking protection is no fun...believe me).

The other day after I'd ridden we had him out. A student's father is looking at him and says, "He's kind of like a plow horse, isn't he." There were about seven people standing around, talking and looking at a mare the student was considering for purchase. You could have heard a pin drop. It struck me funny and I said, "Yeah, he's pretty common." An ex-student (owner of the mare) snorted and said, "Dammit." Then laughed. Then there was a collective exhale, and giggles and laughs.
I knew what he meant though. The mare is a very pretty, small footed, light bones APHA mare. One of those teacup headed, exquisite mares. Alert tipped ears, downright dainty. And there stands Top in his size 3 shoes. Quite the contrast.
I rode him again yesterday. A student was watching. He was so quiet. So present. No tightness, no hurry, or coiling through his back. He was almost 'soggy'. I had to really ride to keep him up and forward. If I 'weakened' at all in the canter, he'd transition to the trot. I'm having to ride him up and forward, and he's taking it. He seems to be liking it. Almost like he wants more input. Interesting. He's not hurrying to get it right. Not rushing through transitions, or getting antsy at a change of bend. Tempo is holding, rhythm is good...hell we're on our way to real cadence.
There was one point in our ride when I realized how much he'd really changed. It became crystal clear. We were tracking left in a working trot. This flock of birds whooshed up and past us. I have no idea where they came from. It was like no birds one instant, and this whole flock darting through the air in front of us, and over us. Startled me, and I jumped. Top didn't even pause, bobble his head, nothing. He was Joe Steady. Kind of like, "Jeez Sharon, they're just birds. Get over it."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Carrie Lesson HAH! Top is So Good

Top and I had a Carrie lesson today. I was concerned as I hadn't ridden him all week. First my son was ill, and then I got it. Stomach flu really hinders the want to ride. Funny how that works. I got on him briefly on Wednesday. His right hind shoe was loose, and both hind shoes were paper thin. We walked around, made maybe two trot circles and called it a day. By Friday the left hind was pretty much gone, or half gone, and the right still hanging on, but it was more welded to his foot than nailed on.

Tuck came out this morning before my lesson up the hill with Carrie, and put new shoes on. We discussed the fact that he was 8 weeks, and the shoes were pretty much toast. We were going to schedule out six weeks, and then decided to just check him at six weeks...and if he needed them done, Tuck would just come out. The front shoes were not nearly as thin as the backs.

Top was a sweaty mess when I pulled him out of the trailer. Dang, we kind of back-slid on that. Tied him to the trailer, gave him a peppermint and let him chill for about 10 minutes. After he was settled, I groomed and tacked him up. We went to the round pen and lunged until he was stretching, instead of trying to look at everything outside. (who's that? what'r they doin? did you see that big dog? is that paint my friend Vandy?)

There had been some cancellations due to sick people (guess it is going around) and a lame horse. So, we could start a little early. I took Top in, and over to the mounting block. He was antsy. (Crimeny, let the old fat chick get on, would ya). He finally was still enough for me to mount. Then he wanted to immediately be on his way. Uh, no. I have to get my right foot in, and squatty body settled, thank you. He stood, and I have him a peppermint. Wah-lah...focus.

I rode around in circles and figure eights waiting for Carrie to be ready. I told her I thought he had turned the corner. She asked if the drawreins had helped. I said yes they had, but I thought the peppermints had been the tipping point. She smiled with a question on her face. "Watch." I pulled a peppermint out of my pocket and tapped Top's neck. He turned his head to me, nickered and took his treat. Carrie started to laugh. "You taught him to speak?" I replied, "No, the speaking was his contribution, I just started giving him treats, and he settled. So, I think I'm going with it." She said, "If he does better with the treats, no problem."

We started on our diamond and he was so on. Then we went to 20m circle and spiraling in and out. No problem, he was on it. So, then we shifted to the 'snowman'. The snowman is a figure eight, with a 20 meter circle, and a 10 meter circle. (I love the snowman, always have. Hey, I'm easily amused). We were trotting the snowman at first. Then I was to canter the 20m and transition to the trot at the change of bend going into the 10 meter. We did this a couple times. The third time at the change...he changed. Freaken perfect flying lead change. Effortless. I say, "I'm just going to ride this with him like it was a plan. I'm not going to shut him down" Carrie says, "Yes, that's good."

I finished the pattern and halted to ask, "It wasn't late behind was it? It didn't feel late." She responded, "No, it wasn't late. It was good. Now, pick him back up and ride it with the lead change." So we did, both directions. He's a tad better to the right lead. The initial change was going to the left.

When we were about done, or I thought we were about done she says, "I want you to try them on the diagonal. Start with a 20m circle to the left, at B head straight on the diagonal to S. Three counts, and change. Okay, I'd love to tell you it was beauteous, but I can't lie. (Well I could, but what would be the point). I was anticipating, and really wanted to tag it. I gave my cue so strong, we had jump. Not a leap, but alotta jump in the change. I was apologetic. Carrie said, "No, that was good. We like jump, remember." I asked, "That wasn't too much?" Nope it wasn't, it just needs to not be hurried.

We did a couple more. Top was tired. I was really tired. I'd feel him anticipating the change, and hurry to cue him before he just offered it up. Damn...I need to wait. We discussed that a little. I told her I wouldn't be practicing changes until I saw her again. I'd do simple, or change of direction changes...but not on the straight ones. Too easy to mess them up, get late behind without good eyes on the ground. At least for me.

As I'm getting ready to leave Carrie says, "Welcome back. Where are your white wraps? You're part of the crew you know." We both knew this was the first time I'd ridden anywhere near what I used to. It was nice to have it validated. As I'm about to get off, she says, "Make him nicker again." I pulled a treat from my pocket, tapped his neck. He nickered, took his treat. Carrie laughed, "I love that. What a nice horse."

Top definitely has a home if something should happen to me. Nice to know. (No, I'm not anticipating anything, or being maudlin. It's just nice to know he'd be safe).