Saturday, March 23, 2013

Week 18: Springing Ahead

                After a time change and some slightly warmer weather I realized it was again time to update the blog! It seems that Finn and I have finally had a big breakthrough. Last week Finn and I rode outside for the second time since I purchased him and we were able to walk, trot and canter! To start the ride I brought Finn into the ring and led him around; allowing him to sniff and glare at anything potentially scary. He seemed fine so I had my dad drag the mounting block over to the ring and hold Finn so I could get on. Right away Finn seemed ready for work! To my surprise there weren't any spooks so I decided to go up to the trot. With quiet hands and a bit of inside leg Finn went right on to the bit and glided around the arena like an old pro.

                After coming to the conclusion that Finn was ready for a challenge, I decided to stand in my stirrups and allow him to canter out. I started up in 2 point with my hands resting on the fuzzy part of my new half pad and then decided to sit down. Finn automatically slowed down and arched his neck (yay!) with little protest. I repeated this simple exercise in both directions with pretty even results.
                With such great results in the ring I decided it was time for our first hack out! Next to the farms outdoor arena we have a cross country field so I decided that’d be a great place to start. I kept him walking forward and I reminded myself to breathe as we encountered some scary things like cones and jumps! At first Finn shied away from the big jumps scattered about the field, but by the end he seemed cool as a cucumber. I am hoping that this nice weather will last and help me achieve more great rides! The date of our first event is set for June 9th at Plantation Field and we hope to practice a bit in the dressage arena before then. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Week 16: Coming Together

                 In the last two weeks Finn has made some huge improvements. Not only is he now trotting around happily in a frame (chronicled in my last post: he is now beginning to round his back at the canter too! I have been working Finn over ground poles to help him establish a more careful rhythm. Although Finn sometimes trots and canters a little faster than I would like, it is more important the he is able to sustain a set rhythm at any speed.
                At the canter I normally stand up in the stirrups in order to take my weight out of the saddle. By removing some of my weight from Finn’s back I am able to make it easier for him to canter. Young horses in training have not yet developed the strength in their backs to handle being “sat into” at the canter. When a rider sits on their horse at the canter, the riders hips must open up and sort of swing with the horses motion. On a young horse, sometimes that pressure can be conceived as a driving force, similar to leg pressure, and can result in an unorganized scrambling canter. Up until today I have been careful to obey this principle.
                As a rider I have developed a bit of feel for the horse moving underneath me. Today I began to feel Finn moving freely and easily at the canter. I made a decision that after a couple months of work it was time to sit down (not all of the way) at the canter. It seemed that the moment I sat down Finn responded by balancing himself and even rounding his neck and back! Finn is starting to move like a real event horse, using his hind end and swinging his shoulders. Hopefully by the next post Finn will have jumped his first cross-rail. It is sad to think that so many horses with similar potential end up in kill pens and auction houses around the country.
                On May 12th I am going to be giving a TED talk at a nearby school. I plan on sharing more about my journey with Finn and thoroughbreds in general. These horses are amazing creatures with distinct abilities and I hope to inspire equestrians in community to consider adopting an OTTB as their next show horse.