The open show is exactly 1 week from today and I feel totally unprepared.
I printed off some of the AQHA suggested reining patterns for the Ranch Horse Pleasure class. They are relatively simple (on paper) so I took them with me as we headed down to the free arena.
We started to training session with practicing our smooth transitions. Especially those trots. Trax still has that natural tendency to jump into the upward change, so each time I would correct him and we would start over. Pretty soon he understood what I was asking. We could ease into a slow trot, then I figured out that I do not even need to ask for the extended trot. If I just start posting he picks it up a notch. That seems to work better than a smooch , as the smooch tends to kick him up to a canter.
Then we moved up to some cantering and he started off a little out of control but then came back down pretty quickly so I was very happy with how he felt. I am learning that I need to find the happy medium with my leg when asking for a specific lead. Too much aggravates him and sends him away too fast, not enough and he picks his preferred lead, which is generally not what I am asking for. The thing is, I never have to ask for a left lead, he will always choose that if given a choice.
We practiced a little bit of spinning, and I wish I could see for sure if he is keeping his hind end still. For the most part I can see by the hoof marks that he is, but I think I feel him falling off once in a while. We also did the rope gate from the right. He still fights me on that, and so I will move him away and practicing pushing that hip and sidepassing that direction and he does it just fine. For some reason he doesn't like that rope on his right side. BUT, to me it doesn't matter. I know that I am not going to let him get hurt by it, and he has got to learn to trust me. So we push push push then go to the gate and if he fights me again, we leave and push push push and try again. He finally gave me a nice execution and so we left it at that.
Then I picked a pattern and we started practicing. It went something like this: Start in the middle at the end of the arena, walk forward and around the corner. Slow jog through a serpentine, then fast jog, Stop, side pass to right, 360 spin in each direction, extended jog away turn left at the fence, canter, then extended lope up and around, then cross diagonally, change to right lead, canter , then lope back around other end, then stop and back up.
We did it the first time and were all over the place. We went back and did it again and had a little more control. We did it again, and fell apart on the lead change. Went back and did it again, and by then he had the pattern memorized and was anticipating the next move. By the fifth time, he was pretty much completing it on his own, same on the sixth but he was trying do things before I was ready. By the seventh time we did a pretty nice little run, because he understood that if he tried to jump the gun I was going to correct him back and we would start again.
You may recall that Mark had said not to ask for a stop from a lope. I had every intention of doing exactly as he said. Trax has other plans in mind though. I swear he is such a show off! On the last try when it said lope, I really let him go and on that right lead turn he was actually stretched out and seriously flying. I knew I wasn't going to have time to break him down to the trot first, so I just said, "Ready aaaaannnnnnnd...WHOA!' I did my best to keep from leaning back but planted my seat and he
S-T-O-P-P-E-D! No he doesn't stop like a reining horse, he stops like a roping horse I think, less soft, more brace...but he stopped, and it was more him than it was me. I was pretty impressed, and we called it a day.
I'll be completely honest here, usually when he gets going that fast I start to get a little nervous. I don't know if it is because I am getting old, because I'm afraid that I won't get him stopped, or what. I just know that it does. Yesterday I was kind of digging it. He felt good. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but it just seemed like he was enjoying himself and it was awesome! I'm pretty sure if he could have done a hoof pump after that last run, he would have. Our lead change still needs some work so it doesn't look quit so awkward, but we got it done, so I call that progress!
The one thing about this class is that it is supposed to be about cadence and about gaits that really cover ground. It is the one thing that he really has going for him. I don't know if running the pattern the day of the show a few times as part of warm up, is the best idea, because when he anticipates, he sometimes rushes through things. On the other hand, when he knows what I am going to ask for next it makes for a smoother run too. So if I can get him to that point, it might help us out.
I had planned on riding every day but woke up this morning to pouring down rain which hasn't stopped yet. My pasture is a lake, which means the arena would be a mud pit. Top it off with some sort of flu bug kicking my ass right now, and I'm thinking riding is the last thing I feel like doing.
I guess the forecast for tomorrow is even more rain. My grass is loving it. My body not so much. So with that in mind I'm going to go take a heavy dose of Nyquil, and see if I can't sleep this off today.