Spring Forward!

You see what happened? In my last post, I whined because, although warm-ish, it was too windy to ride and believe me, I got some “You have no idea how good you’ve got it!” emails from readers holed up under literal feet of snow in the Northeast. Clearly I jinxed myself because first came an ice storm, followed a week later by a pretty heavy snowfall by our standards, resulting in little turn-out and a lot of hand walking.

Generally, a snowfall here is melted away the next day, and that happened. So after nearly two weeks I was able to get Forrest in the arena and I chose our first day to simply longe and loosen him up. But the following day I had a very naughty boy beneath me indeed. Forrest’s go-to evasions tend to include “holding” his back, a lack of desire to go forward, becoming mincy in his gait and swishing his tail in vexation.

This was entirely my fault. Forrest is horse that tends to be phlegmatic by nature (evident in some of his racing finishes) and requires that I send him quite forward from the very first step on either the longe line or under saddle. If I allow him to slouch around at the walk, it will dictate his attitude for the rest of the ride. Indeed, I usually don’t even allow him to lollygag as I lead him from the barn into the arena. But as he had had so much time off without his normal turn out, and suspecting he might have the beginnings of an ulcer (I had just begun him on omeprazole paste), I allowed him to be a bit laid back at the walk and indeed it bit me in the butt when we went into trot. Tapping him up with the whip resulted in further tension, complete with a buck. So annoyed with myself I made a beeline back to the drawing board to focus on nothing else but getting his back, rather difficult when you have no engine whatsoever behind.

Returning to the walk, I gave Forrest a long rein to stretch, which he readily accepted, then requested he walk along smartly: truly marching. I applied both calves (no spurs) quickly and firmly right at the girth and then backed off. If his walk began to flag, I repeated this crisp leg aid with another “bump.” We remained on a long rein and I added some leg yields to help loosen his hips and lower back and when I had a consistent, stretching walk with plenty of over-step, I picked up the reins, went back into trot and voila…got the same stretching, over-the-back feeling from the very first step as well as a willing attitude on the other end of the reins.

Now I had something to work with and I was so pleased with this complete about face in attitude, I wanted to keep our session brief as a reward. We rode a bit of shoulder-fore positioning in both directions at rising trot…

and played around with a few strides of forward and back within the trot across the diagonal and short sides.

As always, followed by a nice stretch, lots of pats and praises and mints! We then walked out of the arena into the small field to clear both our heads.

The following day I returned to Forrest’s routine of being led, marching, down to the arena and before I sent him on his longeing circle, I requested he walk smartly forward 3 times around the entire arena in both directions. We then did a couple of turns on the fore in hand, followed by putting him onto the circle and dictating forward in both walk, trot, and canter. After this warm up, I had a super ride once I climbed aboard. And it’s a funny thing: Forrest becomes very willingly forward- there is no sign of him begrudgingly obliging with pinned ears or a tight back and swishing tail. He focuses and applies himself. We often hear that children thrive within a structured environment…I suppose that’s true of horses as well. And how lovely that on this first afternoon of ‘Daylight Savings Time’ I had a horse that was truly ‘springing forward!’






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