Friday, September 21, 2012

we went into power mode again today

Keil Bay and I had two days off due to rain, then got back to work yesterday. Our ride was good but much more laid back than previous days had been, and I wondered if something was off.

Today he had the characteristic Keil Bay spring and as I wondered how we got from yesterday to today with such a difference, I reminded myself of my own tendency when it comes to riding. I will ride through almost any tight muscle or stiffness in my own body but if I feel anything "off" with Keil Bay I tend to notch things way down and stop sooner than I would otherwise have.
The reason behind it is good-intentioned. I respect Keil Bay and I especially respect how good a sport he has been in bringing me back to riding over the past 8 years. I never want to ask more of him than he can give, or ask him to work when something hurts. I listen to him and he is honest with me.

BUT. Sometimes, especially as we get older,  there isn't specific pain or injury, but we have to work through a bit of stiffness to get to the better work. If I am too cautious, we stop too soon for no good reason and never get to that good work. Keil Bay has always been the kind of horse who likes to warm up for a longer time and do some big work first to loosen things up. Particularly when we're coming back to work after a chunk of time off, I go very slowly. For both our sakes.

I realized today when I got on that he was moving well, much better than yesterday, and that I needed to add even more time to our warm-up at the walk, but then add some stretchy trot work before moving into the trot sets we've been doing.

One of our favorite exercises (which breaks the rules a lot of folks have about sitting trot and warm-up) is to start the trot work in small spurts. I ask for the trot at a random dressage marker and we trot to the next marker, then walk, then trot again. This works really well with sitting trot because Keil Bay has big strides and if I am sitting I can half-halt, ask for trot, sit, half-halt, ask for walk, pretty perfectly between each marker, without getting discombobulated.

I decided to try this today after we'd done a nice long warm-up at the walk. He was completely on the aids and required only the slightest touch of my leg. It gave me a chance to practice half halts and offered both of us the chance to work on our timing. It was amazing, right off the bat. He lifted his back and really moved. We did several sets of this going both directions and then added some serpentine work going across the short length of the arena, using the same idea. Walk one line, turn, trot the next one, etc. etc.

It was clear to me that Keil Bay was feeling good and moving well as we did this work - when we finished this part of the ride we went out the back gate and took a short walk in the back field. Keil was willing but very "up" - and as I asked him to go to the very back of the field he started to balk. I quickly turned him in a smaller circle, same direction, and then did that one more time before going back to the arena. No power struggles over this - I just need to get him out there a little each day and take things a few steps further each time.

When we got back in the arena we finished our trot sets which by now were really feeling good. My hips had loosened up, Keil definitely found his schwung, and I noted when I dismounted that he had a wonderful sweat pattern - along the girth, between his hind legs, and equal on the saddle pad. Plus a nice small line of foam along his lips.

It was warm enough today that we went out and hosed.

An interesting tidbit: after I got Keil Bay hosed, scraped, fed, settled in with hay, etc. I was standing in the tack room door holding his bridle. Salina walked up and lifted her head to the bit. I acted like I was going to put it on her, and she was perfectly ready and willing to be bridled up and presumably ridden! I told her how much I wished I could ride her - I just don't think it's a good idea to ask her to bear weight with her arthritic knees. One hard thing about having a senior here who didn't live here always is that I am constantly wishing I had known her when she was young in body and spirit. What a ride that would be!

Keil and I will have another ride tomorrow and then probably a break on Sunday as daughter has an all-day foxhunting clinic. I'm hoping by next week's end we can add in some cantering. :)


Grey Horse Matters said...

It sounds to me like you have a good plan in place to get both of you back on track. I think it's a great idea to incorporate walk-trot-walk into your plan. I do this with Dusty and Blue a lot. It seems to get their attention.

Poor Salina I'll bet she remembers carrying riders around and is feeling well enough (in her mind) to want to try it again.

billie said...

Salina was a dream to ride during the two years she first lived here - I wish we could find a way to astral travel ride together so I could get a sense of how it was when she was young. :)