Remember to Smile: Spring Fever! - Dressage Today

Remember to Smile: Spring Fever!

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"Clap your hands if you feel like a room without a roof!"

"Clap your hands if you feel like happiness is the truth!"

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Shall we just say that my Cinderfella project, Forrest, has a big, fat, dose of spring fever? This happens. As I introduce Forrest to side reins, I want to be able to warm him up, both directions, at walk and trot, first. Not bothering with the canter at this point, as he's too unbalanced, and it will only add to his excitement. However, sometimes, in his warm-up, he feels the need to, shall we say, "vent his happiness!" Forrest gives me ample warning that he's about to blow by emitting a very girly squeal. However, there are no pinned ears, no dirty eye--just a normal 4 year old, feeling his oats.

Knowing that he might explode in his warm-up trot, I make sure of two things: that he has been turned out for at least two hours before we begin our longeing session and, two, that we walk on the longe, all the way around the arena, for a good 15 minutes before coming onto a circle. This gives the oxygen in his blood plenty of time to circulate all through his muscles and tissues so that he is less likely to tweak something should he then begin to breakdance.

A horse will not build correct muscle until there is an absence of tension and you physically see his back swing. But if my horse has been very high and it's taken quite a bit of time to work him down, I don't want to then say, "There! Now his back is swinging, so let me work him another 15 or 20 minutes so that he can start developing that topline." I have to use common sense: I want to begin to develop that needed muscle but I don't want to torque those joints any longer than necessary or have him become so tired that he becomes sore. So, for me, five minutes is enough. And in my experience, I know that the next time he comes out, that little bit of development will make it easier for him to go to this posture, earlier. It's rather like touching your toes when you've never done it ... you can't expect to do it after a couple of tries, but you try a little more, each session, then after just a few sessions, you find that you can actually stretch all the way down and you say to yourself, as Forrest will, "Hey, this feels wonderful! I feel so loose in my back. This is what I'd like to feel every time!"

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