It was a big learning day for both me and PJ.
Maryann and I had a lesson. Before Maryann came out to the ring I ask Barbara how I could get PJ moving better sooner. It seems like it takes at least 45 minutes to do our warmup until he’s pushing off his hind end into contact. She said that a normal warmup is about 20 minutes for any horse, but she put us right to work. For what seemed like forever (probably 15 minutes) she had me trot him around the ring really fast (for him). In both directions I just sent him forward by posting quicker and using leg (and whip if he didn’t listen to my leg). Then she had me canter him straight from that fast trot (low and behold, he picked up the canter almost right away). Then we galloped as much as PJ gallops around the ring. Once he was going more or less on his own without me pushing him every stride, she had me go back to a trot. He was much better, so we took a long walk break. PJ was panting. I’m thinking the more I do that not only will he get fit faster, but he’ll realize what I want from him sooner, so it won’t take so long.
Once Maryann warmed up, Barbara had us doing an exercise around two cones. The idea was to only use our legs to turn. First we trotted a big circle around both cones. Then we each picked a cone and spiraled in around it only using our outside to keep the circle small. Then we spiraled out to the big circle, using out inside leg to make the circle big. We did this a bunch of times. Next, Barbara had us half-halt as we spiraled in and then really make the trot big as we spiraled out. Lastly, she had us do it at the canter. That was a disaster for PJ and I, especially the left lead. I couldn’t get him to turn small with just my legs. Mainly it was my body position. Then I let his outside shoulder escape and I incorrectly used my inside rein directly and my outside rein indirectly to try to steer. The horse is supposed to turn off of our legs because he’s pushing with his inside hind and we are positioned correctly with our bodies. Of course PJ and I make each other crooked but I know that it is my job as the rider to keep straight. I’m working on it. This exercise showed a big whole in my riding but I’m still a world better than I was last year.
PJ was exhausted by this point, so Maryann and I decided to take a walk down to the river to cool them out. This was our first trip down there this season and PJ was a little jumpy. His heart started racing when he saw deer leaping through the woods. Barbara (a different person than my instructor) made a comment on my last post about keeping the horse busy when he gets distracted, so that’s what I did. Every time PJ stuck his head in the air, I made a circle on the trail, which was not easy because of all the brambles. Some times all we could fit was a shallow serpentine. He settled but I think it was more that the scary deer left. Then our neighbor, Michelle on her little chestnut, joined us (PJ spooked at her too) and volunteered to be the lead horse going into the water. First Michelle went in, then Maryann and PJ practically jumped in. He started splashing and loved it. What was educational for PJ was that Michelle had to say goodbye and headed out away from us. Neither PJ nor Ransom got nervous at her departure. Maybe it was because they were together, but still, I thought it was good of them.
After a couple of more minutes in the water, both horses had cooled down and we headed back up the hill to the barn. I think a trip out of the ring should be on the schedule after every ride. I want PJ’s job description to be dressage horse and trail mount.