Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Schoolin' Dixie

Today was Dixie's turn again. I took T and Goblin and we went out into the fallow soybean field so I could, uh, pretend to school my mare. (I feel like a bit of a fraud.) Exciting wildlife alert: we saw 9 (!!!) turkeys and a big doe. Oh, and a dead box turtle. The turtle was odd - he was on his back, but I could see that his upper shell had been broken. I'd think that if a dog/coyote/fox had gotten him, the carnivore would've gotten in through the bottom shell, the plastron. So I wonder if a redtailed hawk had snagged the turtle from a nearby lake and dropped it in the field to break it open? Do hawks DO that? Anyway, that's my working theory.

Horse stuff: The double reins were slightly easier to handle, yay! I kept working mainly on following her head as she walked, and helping her bend her whole body into the circles we made.

Her head nod is immense, really it is. I have to move my arms about six inches to follow her when she's just walking around slowly. The head nod decreases as she gaits faster; I think it's a function of that pseudo-collection that gaited horses do to gait.

We had a couple of really nice curves a few times. I can't really do round circles yet - I'm not good at "seeing" the circle in my mind, it's a big field with no frame of reference, and her "sun" is back toward her field. It's funny how dressage articles always talk as if a horse is just floating around the arena, when every real horse I've ever been on has been attracted more to one area/direction. It's like they drift toward the gate, or drift toward home, or drift away from that menacing tree/shadow/horse-eating-monster. This was the first time Dixie had been in that field, so she was naturally attracted to the direction of her home.

Anyway, I worked a bit on keeping the same bend and speed when we were headed toward home and away from it, and I did a few spirals in and out. I'm trying to show her what leg aids are and that they're not out to get her. She used to come completely unglued at any leg at all, and she's still inclined to panic about leg, but she's getting better.

After we headed back to her field, I reintroduced her to a whip. She was astonishingly headshy when I first got her; I'm almost positive the persons who broke her to ride got her to gait by spurring her to speed up and whacking her on the head with a whip if she trotted or cantered. It worked, I suppose, but it left her with just a few issues. I got T to hand me the dressage whip verrry slowly, then I cautiously held it away from Dixie's butt and asked her to walk off.

Then I accidentally let the whip flop a bit and the very tip of it touched her butt so we racked in circles for a while. Sigh.

Once I got her listening to me again I started gently running the whip all over her neck and butt, both sides. After I got off, I kept meddling with her with the whip. She was more intrigued than frightened - she kept stretching out to stare at it and smell it.

Pretty successful ride, all together. I do feel like a fraud, because I know how very little I know. :( But I'm gonna keep plugging on with this, because I don't have the money or the desire to send her away to a high-end gaited trainer and I just haven't found anybody local who is both classically-oriented and familiar with gaited horses. I don't know what I want from her; maybe I don't want anything in particular from her. I think I just want to unlock that awesome mare that's hiding inside the scared one.


  1. When Leeandra was done with Peanut she had two varieties of gaits schooled into him: one that was typical for gaited horses (no true collection), and one in true collection. It can be done! But, yeah, that's when I had my accident and was out of commission, followed by Leeandra's accident, so I never got to really do it myself. And now Peanut has no topline anymore so he can't collect like he used to. Sigh.

    Long afterwards, when she was teaching me how to get his topline back, I did get to experience the true collected gait. It was so different. I don't know if you remember the email, but that's when I went on about how uncomfortable that made me feel since I was supporting his collection as he didn't have the muscles to do it himself. I didn't like to force that kind of rein pressure on him, even if it was temporary until he got into shape.

    Long story short, they can collect and gait. Just don't ask me how, all I know is that he used to be able to do it thanks to a classical dressage trainer.


  2. Grumble grumble, I am so jealous of your good trainer.

    I do remember you talking about that now. It didn't really make sense at the time because I generally rode WP style with zero contact on the reins, but it makes more sense now. Every now and then I'll get Val the Evil Pony working on the bit for a few seconds. It's always surprising to me how much pressure we have on the reins, but at the same time how responsive we are to each other. It's NOTHING like pulling a horse into a headset.

    Anyway, I've never coaxed Dixie onto the bit yet. One day I'll get her to collect up a tiny bit at a slow walk and we'll see how it goes from there.


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