Another evening, another conditioning set–horse training blather

Cold rainy evening. The only way you can tell these damp cold April evenings from January at the barn is that a.) I’m not wearing my ski base layers and b.) it’s actually light enough outside once I’m done working Mocha that we can hack out to cool off. If it’s not doing something heavier than a very light mist.

The pony stallion was getting braided when I arrived. Even though Mocha clearly wasn’t in heat (not like last week, fortunately), we still had him moved away when I brought her out and tied her up. Even at that, he still snorted around and tried to Be Impressive, but none of us were having it, especially Mocha, who was more interested in licking the wall than checking him out. He is a pretty boy–nicely marked piebald, and with just a bit of work and grooming, he’s muscled right up. Good-minded, to boot–after a wee bit of fuss, he settled for just Watching Mocha, more interested in her than in the treats she was getting.

The Girl was initially a bit on the muscle when we started up, wanting to get bracy and strong. Spring mare silliness. I just pushed her forward into the snaffle–springtime is for snaffles–and we did some small circle walk work, but mostly a lot of bigger circle trot and canter work. By the time we worked up into canter conditioning sets, the edge was long gone and she just wanted the chance to stretch into a working canter and burn off the tension from collection.

I’m finally able to get my legs back where I want them to be. Not consistently, not yet, but I’m getting that good leg drape in fleeting moments at sitting trot, both Western jog and extended jog. We had a few good moments of coordinating footfalls and leg at the trot, maybe about three strides in a row, but…those were awfully dang nice, with a wee bit more elevation. I can tell the sensation is pricking Mocha’s curiosity. It’s a new way to move in balance, and she’s always interested in learning how to move in a new balance.

Unless it’s something that’s really contradicting her notions of movement, like counterbending. And even then, she can be convinced. This evening I worked her at counterbend in the figure 8, did a lead change in counterbend which of course made it the bend, did that for a circle, then went back across the diagonal, swapped leads, went with the bend, and then asked her to maintain it as counterbend and countercanter across the diagonal and around and back into regular lead and bend.

She did it with minimal fuss. OMG. I would not have dreamed of doing that like this even six months ago.

So anyway, after pulling all that stuff off, and then the two-track sets, we settled for the conditioning canter sets with me in two-point. After the first three loops in one direction around the arena, she settled in without straining or pulling ahead, hesitating if she even halfway thought I was going to ask her to stop. When I did ask her to stop, she stopped hard, solid reiner stop, lovely rounded, low headed stop.

And then we went for a hack outside. She’s conditioned enough that she picked up speed and asked to trot through the puddle she knows best (we spend a lot of time splashing and playing through puddles, I like splashing through puddles so she has to learn how to like it). It was a long-rein, light-contact hack with the biggest issue being keeping her from biting at the grass. She came back dry (well, except for puddle splashing) and walking in her big happy Going Somewhere stride.

After I groomed her and put her in the stall to eat, I had to laugh. She’d gotten both grain and her evening hay (alfalfa and grass). After the initial chomping of the grain, she kept wandering over to the alfalfa (she gets enough grain to mix with her Trifecta supplements). So it was a bite of grain, a bite of alfalfa…back and forth.

Just another cold rainy April evening at the barn, getting the conditioning sets in. Since I know there’s a show in September, this year I’m legging her up for that…and y’know, I can’t think of a better way to deal with spring itchies and hormones than to focus on conditioning while tossing in bits and pieces to extend stuff they already know.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens the next time I ask Mocha to cross the diagonal in counterbend without changing leads.

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