This was the most wonderful winter I can remember. I know many of you skiers and snow fanatics think it was horrible, and it was hard on our economy; but from a horse trainer's perspective, it was perfect. It was never very cold, and when it was, it was short lived. We were able to ride outside in the arena at least once each month. That is unheard of. Unfortunately, there was no snow to cover the ice, so trail riding was limited to the dirt roads...and that was sketchy at best.
Everyone worked outside yesterday in the lovely sunshine. I even had to don my ball cap it was so sunny out!! Junior was skeptical at first, as he generally is for the first few weeks of outdoor riding. Luckily, he wasn't snorty and spooky, just tentative. I allowed him to choose his tempo at first, which was rather slow, and let him remain deep, which is his preferred position when he's nervous. I have no problem with riding him deeper than "appropriate" since he's far too tense in the back in a different position. I'd prefer to have connection with swinging back and loose muscles, than a one that is tense and not going through the topline.
It was an easy workout for Junior. After warmup, I was able to ride him slightly higher in the neck without fuss. We worked on the canter primarily, with lots of changes within the gait. I also did lots of leg-yields across the entire arena in both trot and canter to open him up and get him swinging. Once he's easily gliding sideways, I change the flexion from right to left within the lateral movement to further the suppling exercise. We finished with a working half steps to collected walk to half steps, back and forth, almost jigging the whole time in the walk. I'd ask for the "jig" and then look for slightly quicker, more elevated steps, back to "jig." It's helping!!
Flagg was a perfect gentleman. I longed him quickly without side reins to see if he needed to play a bit. He did not. We worked w/t/c quickly on the longe. He's a bit downhill right now, so he's moving rather wonky. I didn't put boots on him since it was wet in the arena, but I will next time. He didn't hit himself, but it was only by luck. There isn't much I can say about our ride. He was well behaved, mostly quiet in the contact, and nicely forward. He looked at nothing and was simply an honest, well behaved young man. Such a lovely, lovely guy. I feel blessed that Liz will let me show Flagg this summer. I've never ridden a horse that was so simple and eager to work quietly. It will be such a relaxing, pleasant experience. I can't wait!
As quiet as Flagg was, Wheels was that wild! He was not naughty, just really energetic and full of himself. The nice thing about Wheels is that his back is always soft, so even when he's going full tilt, you can just sit on him and swing along. It was really fun, although he was so distracted it took a while before we were able to work on actual training. I worked him much the same way I did Junior, except that where Junior was slow, Wheels was fast. Junior was deep, Wheels was up. Once he was able to focus on work, we also focused on transitions within the gaits and long leg-yields with varying flexions.
Spider was also a very good boy. At first, he was very afraid of the pile of dressage arena parts and was hesitant about going to that side of the arena. He's very easy to encourage and once he walked up to the stuff, he touched and played with a few things and then put it right out of his mind. He worked on the longe with a halter, w/t/c. Basic stuff and happy to play, as always. He is definitely one sided and finds going right to be tricky. You can tell he has to concentrate on his balance and doesn't want to go forward the way he does going left. He'll likely find it helpful once we're riding him since he can do more straight lines.
Spider had his teeth done last week and he has a brand new beautiful bridle that I purchased for a great deal. Thank-you so much, Dinah Marcotte, from Tony's/Depot Home and Garden, for the fantastic sale this month! Now, he'll start to wear his "big boy clothes" and really go to work. He wore a surcingle for the first time last week and didn't care. The plan for today is surcingle and bridle with a halter. Once that is fine with him, we'll add the vienna reins. I don't plan to get on him until May or June. I'm not worried about him being too fit, since he's a nice boy. He's young and there's no need to push him. He likes the work and the handling, so I'm giving him the time since he's asking for it.