Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dawn Says No Problem

Yesterday I didn't ride - I was pretty lacking in focus and energy. Today was a little bit better, so Dawn and I went back to work. We worked on the scary pole, softening at the trot, transitions and some lateral work. Before I mounted up, I led her over the scary pole in both directions - no problem. Then, after I mounted, we just rode over the scary pole in both directions, almost as if it wasn't there. I kept my focus on a destination past the pole, didn't push or urge her at all and she just walked right across with no increase in tension or energy - apparently the pole is no longer scary. I was pretty sure we'd be able to do this together today, and I'm pleased that it worked out.

We did a lot of softening work at the trot. She's continuing to improve her ability to carry the softness for longer periods - we're pretty reliably up to 11 soft steps in each direction, without diving or curling up. I'm still keeping my hands a bit higher than I usually carry them to help her out. Soon she's be able to carry herself correctly on a continuous basis at the trot. Between sets of trot work, we would walk around on a loose rein, including over the (now invisible) pole, and around the cones that were set out. We also did some backing and some work on turn on the haunches to the left, taking one slow step at a time. She knows how to do this lateral work, but needs a refresher. And after another trot set we worked on our transitions, using the sequence of feeling the movement and the new rhythm in my body, breathing out and cuing (if needed) - she was right on it for all the upwards and downwards transitions between walk and trot and walk and halt. I rarely needed any cue at all - as soon as the thought and breath happened she did it, and not using any rein cues gave her an easier opportunity to stay soft and balanced through the transitions.

Then, since everything was working so well for us, we started our canter work. I made sure to get at least 5 soft steps at the trot before asking for canter. Her canter departure to the left was really nice, and we did one big circle before coming back to trot. To the right she was somewhat strung out - this was probably incorrect timing of the cue on my part - but once she got the canter it was lovely and round. She didn't get excited or rushy at all. After we were done, we walked around the outside of the arena past the community garden - she got a little bit rushy and looky, so we did frequent turns to keep her engaged and focussed.

I'm absolutely delighted with Dawn's progress and her willingness and work ethic. I think all the primary building blocks are in place, and we can now begin to refine lots of things.

After I gave her a rinse off and she was grazing while she dried, my younger daughter arrived, back from her road trip. Dawn is now hers again for the time she's here and I'm sure they'll enjoy their time on the trail together. Maisie's suspensory swelling is looking better every day, but she's not ready to ride yet.


  1. Thanks for all detail on your training session. It's very useful for the stage I am with my horse. I'm working on many of the same things, especially softening. I must remember to try breathing out when doing a transition.

  2. Nice work for Dawn today. I like that the scary pole is not scary anymore.

    All the relaxation exercises and expectations of softening seem to be working well too.

    Good for you to get back to work with riding so soon. It's good medicine for the soul.

    Hope Maisie gets back to soundness quickly.

  3. Hi Kate. I got behind on posts and just wanted to say I'm sorry about Noble. Actually, "sorry" isn't the right word because I think you gave him a great life and you were selfless enough to do him one last kind thing. That is nothing to feel sorry about. Still, making that decision can be hard for us and I'm sure you'll miss him, so I feel for you. I hope you understand what I mean.

    I am always impressed with your patience in working with your horses. I think many riders would do better if they were able to slow it down and have more patience, myself included. I still have to ride with my hands a little higher than normal to encourage Brumby not to tuck in, mostly at the canter. The plus side is that it's helping me fix having hands that are too low - a habit I developed while riding a horse who was too high :-/ It seems the extremes are averaging out to be just right!

    Good work, thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow Kate, you and Dawn have made BIG progress together. Right over the scary pole and good canter work, how exciting!

  5. "Absolutely delighted!" just about sums it up. You've done some wonderful work with Dawn over the last several weeks. I'm sure your daughter will appreciate the growth she's made.
    Now to get Maisie back to 100%, then you can go trail riding with your girl, too.

  6. Kate I have been without a computer for a week or so and was sad to hear of your special friend Noble passing on. He was lucky to have such a wonderful owner and I'm sure you have fantastic memories and special photos to look back on. Well done on your progress with Dawn ....get better Maisie

  7. I am SO glad that you are willing to type your clinic experiences out to share; it's wonderful (and helpful) to read through! Hopefully Ms. Maisie will make a full recovery soon so the two of you can get back to riding :o)


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