This weekend was fall break at the University of Georgia and instead of going home like the majority of students I decided to stay here and hang out with the pony. I haven’t had a real weekend with him in a long time and with our fall weather finally deciding to make an appearance I just couldn’t make myself go home to not ride!
Friday was a super ride in our double bridle, schooled the trot half-pass and four tempi changes – one of these days the counting will be easier for us. This weekend our arena underwent renovations for a change in the footing, not that the current footing was bad at all. Instead it was a preventive measure to insure that the footing never reaches the point where it is bad. That meant that the arena was closed all weekend and is going to be off-limits until Wednesday this week. Honestly it was a nice thing that the arena was not ridable because it forced me to go out into the field and enjoy the glorious fall weather while it is still here. Winter is just around the corner, but I am determined to enjoy the cool and sunny autumn.
Another boarder and I ride together and so on Saturday we decided to go play in our cross-country field together. Val was fantastic out there, considering I haven’t had my jump saddle on him since lord knows when! We jumped a few of the solid logs out there before I decided to introduce him to his first water complex. Val was more than a little baffled about trotting and cantering through the water but after he decided he could do it he was so proud of himself! Cedar Ridge has a super training field for eventers and we are so lucky to have these facilities even not competing in that discipline. There is a coop that sits at one edge of the water and so we jumped both in and out of the water as well without any hesitation on the red heads part. Then Stephanie pulled up her big girl shorts and decided to brave the down bank into the water. And what do you know? Val could not have cared less! The first time he came trotting up to it he stopped and peered down, not afraid just curious. I let him look, turned around and came right at it and down he popped without any fuss, over-jump, or commotion! I love my horse! We finished off our day with a true gallop around the outer track of the field which is a half-mile circuit and walked back through the trails.
Today there was still no riding in the ring so I decided to actually get some real work done out in the field, but not before I whipped out my camera to show all of you the awesome facility I am so lucky to ride at!
I am so blessed to have found a really super barn that is literally minutes off campus! Although not strictly a dressage barn, I have less than nothing to complain about. The care is super, the price is affordable, the drive is twenty minutes, and the facilities are fantastic. Crazy enough their arena is based on Brad Thatcher’s designs for the Applewood arena – it is like being back home honestly! And I am a big fan of the permaflex footing (rubber tires), and so is Val.
Val goes out in a pasture with one other horse who belongs to the young lady I ride with, Jessica. They have a huge turn out that still has grass in it.Let me tell you, he loves it!
Although I love riding out in the field I cannot wait until our arena is all finished. We are going to put the dressage court back up this week as well which will help so much with our accuracy. Sometimes in a big, unmarked space it is hard to judge angle and distance especially on the lateral work. The mirrors, which are a recent addition by Mrs. Carolyn Cadier, are so helpful though even when we don’t have the actual dressage arena up to work in.
Out in the back field today (which I will get pictures of I promise!) we worked mostly on connection while doing some light hill work. His trot was really super out there. Val was connected from the leg to the bit instead of from my hands and had a pretty easy time staying soft and supple even while on uneven footing and lots of changes of directions. Cross-training is a big part of my philosophy of riding and hill work is so great for building muscles and strengthening the overall carriage. I also find that being out of the arena really makes me focus more on correct, honest riding because Val is less willing to compensate when outside the safety net that an arena builds. It is a good test of how true my aids are, and how well he is listening. When working on the canter today my focus was on keeping him a little deeper and rounder in the connection while going up and down the slopes and inclines that exist. Horses are naturally built on their forehand – they carry 2/3 of the weight on the forelegs and 1/3 of the weight on the hind – and dressage is the process of bio-mechanically shifting that weight by asking the hind quarters to lower and engage so that self carriage and ‘lightness’ occurs. In and out of the arena his tendency is to get a little croup high in the canter. He has an immense talent for sitting but there is still a disconnect that when he sits to bear more weight behind the hind legs have to keep jumping through. Schooling up and down hills are perfect to combat this because while going up he wants to pull himself up and get quick and by keeping him connected that energy is used positively. Going down hills, horses in general rush and so he is already thinking “go”. Using the “go” and balancing him he stays quick and jumping behind even when we flatten back out. We schooled some really nice collected canter and some forward thinking changes as well.
He was a really super guy today and is totally getting the day off tomorrow! I promise to keep you all updated as we get closer to Thanksgiving – hoping for a real lesson possibly next weekend. There is also some super exciting future news looming on the horizon that will be breaking in (hopefully) a few days – life changing news! Stay tuned… ;D