It was an exciting day today. I brought Spot in and just like usual he was a mess. I decided to bring Spot into the regular cross-ties because Elizabeth said we should start treating him like any other horse here.
I brought him up to the ring around 4, but he wasn’t really cooperating when I tried to lunge him. He kept calling out to his buddies and would start walking or barely trotting. When Elizabeth came out, she said it was because Spot had learned what time dinner was at now. All the horses are fed around 4 to 4:30. He’s already picked up the schedule and was upset because he wasn’t eating. I can’t come any earlier, though, because of school, but Elizabeth said as the weather gets warmer they’ll feed later in the day.
Elizabeth brought out the lunge whip and made it crack a couple of times behind Spot to get him to listen instead of calling out to his buddies. He got a little spooked and tried to pull away. Elizabeth worked to get him desensitized to the whip by running it over on him and moving it near him. At first Spot was freaked. He kept flinching away and had his head way up high. He would move away from the whip and would spook.
After working with him for a few minutes, he started to relax more. Spot stood his ground and just flinch when the whip was thrown into the air, instead of trying to pull away.
After that, Elizabeth let me lunge him some more. Every time Spot called out to the other horses or tried to look over that way, I was supposed to crack the whip. He tried to pull away at first, but eventually was listening to me and was calmly trotting around. I got on and Elizabeth decided to keep him on the lunge line for a little while in case the wind scared Spot.
Apparently I stick my toes out like a duck. Elizabeth had me drop my stirrups and try bending my toes farther in so that my foot was parallel with Spot’s body. This way, the flat part of my calves was pressed up against the horse, instead of the round part in the back. Having my legs hanging down and out of the stirrups helped but I still have that instinct to stick my toes out. Habits die hard.
After that I worked on getting Spot to listen to me. Whenever he turned his ears towards the barn or whinnied out to the other horses, I would kick him or turn his face from side to side (gently) so that he would listen to me instead. Sometimes this would result in him going into a trot. I worked on my transitions from a trot to a walk and tried to stop Spot without using my hands.
Today was the day I got to canter Spot! He was so good!!! Before, Elizabeth showed me how I needed to build up energy before I go into a trot so that Spot doesn’t just keep on walking faster until he went into it. She then explained that you want to do the same thing with the canter. I would trot around the ring and build up energy in my seat and hands. I had to have good contact with Spots mouth. When I was ready to canter, I bent Spot’s head to the outside and kicked with the inside leg and shifted my weight to the outside so that he knew to extend the inside, front leg.
The first couple of times I tried, I couldn’t get it. He would just trot faster and then I had to slow him down (he did a great half halt though. We tried the right lead canter first and when I finally got it, he was on the left lead! Elizabeth said that if he wanted to go on the left lead, we should let him. I turned him around, and after a couple of tries got the left lead again.
He was so comfortable! I didn’t canter long, since today was the first day, but it still felt great!
After Spot and I cantered on the left a couple of times, we tried the right again. I kept picking up the left lead because I wasn’t bending his head to the outside enough. Finally, when I had Spot towards the end of the ring and in a corner. I was able to really bend his head and get the right lead. He felt even better on the right! We went a half way around the ring on the right lead and then I transitioned down to the trot and walk.
Elizabeth said it looked great and said that I could go out in the woods now with Spot if I was comfortable enough. They have some trails back there where we can ride around. I can’t wait to take Spot out in the woods.
Day 6: (February 9, 2011)
Another great day! I had to get after Spot some when he was in the cross ties. If I step away from him for a few seconds he starts to paw at the ground. I think it’s him just wanting more attention, but I don’t want him to get in the habit of doing that.
In the ring, I hardly had to lunge Spot before he was ready for me to get on. Almost immediately he went into a nice calm trot and turned around the circle without me having to pull on the lunge line any. He only called out once today but that might have just been because another horse (Popular Five aka “Bo”) was in the ring, too.
Once Elizabeth came out, I started working on getting Spot to trot in a circle while bending his head to the outside. Elizabeth said I needed to ride Spot on the outside rein while making him bend around my inside leg. Whenever he started to get too far outside the circle or he looked out, I had to quickly correct him with the inside rein and then give it back to him instead of just holding it.
I also got to canter again! We started Spot out on the left lead today instead of on the right. Yesterday it seemed he liked that lead better and picked it up easier. Ironically he picked up the right lead first and I had to try again. It seemed easier, today, to get him to canter. We went in both directions and I kept him going longer. I went a couple of times around the ring without stopping!
After I brought him down to a trot, Elizabeth told me to keep him going so that he didn’t think he could just stop every time. Spot was so funny and amazing! Once I had him trotting, he got really slow like a western horse and dropped his head. I practically dropped my reins and tried to steer Spot around by twisting at my bellybutton and using my legs. It sort of worked. Sometimes I had to use my reigns (like if he was about to run into the fence, but if I did, I had to apply almost no pressure. He had his nose skimming the ground for a couple of seconds too, but then he stumbled a little and had to lift it back up.
While Spot was trotting, I steered/legged him towards the trot poles. He started to drift at first and I had to use my reigns so that he wouldn’t run out, but as I went over it a couple of times and Elizabeth reminded me to keep him straight with my legs, he got better and better. We also raised the last pole up a couple of inches like we did last week!
It’s like Spot was never a race horse at all. He is so calm and comfortable that I can’t imagine him just coming off-the-track!