Sunday, August 17, 2008

Right. So I've been Official Level One for awhile now, playing in L2 first with Wildflower, now with Cheerios, and I've been boring my horse. Since I'm not beginning at the beginning, and since I've played around with some of the FreeStyle patterns in previous clinics, I decided to delve right into one of my favorites. (Can I just say, driving with two reins in Zone 5—that's Level FOUR?!? Wildflower and I experimented with that at our last clinic together. Blimey!)

I went to the barn. We have toys. LOTS of toys. We have loads of barrels (marked for Dressage patterns with letters), cones, poles, log-like poles, jumps, and a tarp. The only things "missing" are a proper pedestal, a carwash, a bridge, the Big Green Ball, and the two tires buried in the sand. All of those I'm planning to make/acquire in the coming months because I'm not the only one who likes to play with stuff.

I set up two barrels for Figure 8 and then I set up the Question Box. (This is the diagram I drew after the clinic in 2004, NOT the official PNH Patterns version.)

Corners QBox Diagram REV

I also laid out the tarp. Well, this took me a good half hour or so, then I loaded up the gear—22' line, hackamore, saddle, saddle pad, bareback pad (depending on how I felt)—and wheelbarrowed it out to the paddock. Then I went to collect my horse.

First, I chased Shaveya around for awhile. I say "chase" but I mean play the Catching Game. She's being evasive again, probably because I haven't been out much this summer. She finally caught me and let me pet her. We had a nice calm thing going on. The thought crossed my mind, "Now would be a good time to walk away and prove to her you won't always ensnare her". I thought, "Sure, just a sec" because I wanted to enjoy it a little longer.


Or, another horse bit her on the butt.

Either way, in the next moment, she'd thrown up her head and bolted, convinced that I was the source of it.


So I caught Cheerios. Played online. Skipped the whole preflight the seven games in order routine so I wouldn't bore him. Well, that may not have been the best idea. Nothing happened. Not nothing bad, just—nothing. Apparently the routine is his cue that playtime is about to begin. Otherwise, he was unfocused, wandering around, not really paying attention. Needless to say, the online stuff wasn't stellar. The Figure 8 went well going left, badly going right. Huh.

Because of the heat and all the physical effort of setting up stuff, and because I didn't eat a big enough breakfast, I was feeling off by then. A slight headache was forming and I felt worn out, hot, thirsty, hungry, and whiny. But I stuck with it. He was relaxed, so I saddled up.

The QBox was AMAZING. The objective is, the center of the box is where the horse asks the question, “what do I do next”. Do I stop? Go right? Go left? Do I go out at a walk, trot, or canter? Do we go near or wide? Do I stop this time or go through and do another circle and stop next time?

It was FUN. It got his brain working. He’s responding to my energy and focus better now. I realized something huge. If it works online... it works riding. If he can pick up a nice trot online and balance it, he can do it while I’m riding. His trot yesterday was UNBELIEVABLE. He responded to my lifting my energy, he lifted into exactly the level of speed I wanted, it was smooth, I could ride it, and he slowed down better, too. Wow. This, from the horse I’d nicknamed the pogo stick. It almost felt like I was riding Wildflower. So cool. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. There was a time I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it together.

Towards the end, he must've sensed that I was ready to be done (mentally) because he started flying off the circle when trotting to the left and heading towards the gate. I missed it the first time and had to break pattern. Next time, I was ready. Hackamore lead in my right hand, I trotted him out of the box off to the left wide circle on a casual rein. He tried to break pattern. I jiggled the lead in his Zone 2. He kept to pattern. Rode through the center, still trotting. Same thing—break, correct, ride through. Third time—trotting along... get to the break... his attitude changes to one of determination—as if he said "I'm doing it this time!" and he completed the circle without a correction. I slowed to a stop and praised him.

Then I noticed the reason his breathing had sped up. Kudos to Cheerios—he'd kept his head AND stayed on task despite an enormous horsefly sucking on his butt! SWAT! Dead. Rub rub rub. Good boy.

I almost went for a canter on the way to the saddle drop off ponit... but I’m not quite ready yet. I'd circled him on the 22’ line at the canter and he’s still a bit punky. I think, though, if I make a program of transitions to canter (walk-trot-canter, trot-canter-trot, walk-canter-walk) for a week or so, that’ll go away. Once he loses the jerky launch and the need to put his head down like he wants to buck, THEN I can ride him with confidence.

It looks like I’m going to another clinic in October, it’s a solid L2 with Jesse. I had forgotten I’d signed up for it—it’s 2.5 hours away, just above Detroit—and just got reminded that fees are due. If I drop out, I have to pay half the fee! (Not every clinic does that. Oops. Next time I’ll read the fine print.) Unless I find a replacement. Or use it as a deposit for a clinic next year. Trouble is, trailering him. I don’t know that I can ask my current barn manager for that kind of a favor, unless she’d be willing to take the weekend off and audit it (I’d pay her auditing fees). I’m the only Ohioan going, everyone else lives in Michigan. I’m working on attracting a ride, since that would be less expensive than paying for a clinic I wouldn’t be at. OY! Does God want me to go into PNH? Gee. What do YOU think?

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