Schooling is a process….

Mocha got a four day layoff while hubby and I were off at Oregon Country Fair. When I returned on Monday, I had hopes that perhaps she would finally be over the Evil Paint Gelding stuff. No such luck. We schooled well until the very end, when Mr. Gelding moved within her range of vision. Despite having had a rather rigorous work, Miss Silly started doing her giraffe imitation. Sighing, I resumed the tight circle work up by the suspicious corner, mixing it up with lateral work.

Except–the lateral work started getting her wound up, and I could tell that Airs Above the Ground were imminent. Something else had to happen, and I decided that if Little Miss wanted to hold her head high and be snorty, then by golly, she was going to do small circles with her head high at my discretion. So every time she got wound up, up went my hands. At first we trotted, and there was an amusing moment when she tried to snort while I was driving her forward while holding her head high. She couldn’t get much of a snort off, and she got tired of being required to carry her head high very quickly, and soon we were walking around the suspicious corner with her head low.

Nonetheless, I decided that enough was enough at the moment. While Mocha’s getting back in shape, I really didn’t want to be yoinking around in tight circles like that because of the stress it puts on her hocks. Besides, if she had enough go in her to start reacting at the end of a riding session, then perhaps it was time that I set her down and we really got back to work, to keep her mind focused. So she had a day of rest, and then yesterday and today’s work, inside using snaffle with a focus on getting back into patterns at walk and trot.

Yesterday was pretty sweet. Besides warmup on the rail ending with figure 8s and flying lead changes, we also walked and trotted square figures. It didn’t take long for her to be looking for the pattern and making those sharp turns. Two laps of walk, then we schooled inside and outside bend in big figure 8s at all three gaits. More walk, then two-track at walk and trot. Walk break, then, because she had been throwing off countercanter outside whenever I shifted my weight, we schooled flying changes on the rail. She was pretty energetic and enthusiastic about that. I tried to keep the changes to every four strides with the inside lead on the short ends, but she was feeling full of herself and enjoying the movement. More walk, and then spiral in and out, once in each direction, followed by a little bit of showmanship practice. She gets annoyed by it, but I will get her to square up automatically one of these days. Finished with a shower for her, and despite the heat of the day, she wasn’t very sweaty.

Today was cooler but Mocha was clearly a little tired. Instead of flying changes on the rail, we did more schooling work on bending and yielding to the bit. She normally tends to want to tilt her nose to the right, and I had noticed yesterday that her shoulders seemed to be a bit wiggly and not-straight when in walk to the left with an inside bend, especially in two particular places in the arena. So we worked on turning not-straight with resistance to hand and leg into straight with yielding to my hand  and leg at the walk. She wasn’t thrilled about that. I had to play to find the right mix of leg and hand, as well as sit up as straight as possible. Eventually we got there–and then had to go back to ground zero to work on getting a nice canter depart from the walk while maintaining the bend. It took a lap, but we got it.

Doesn’t happen at trot or canter–just walk. We did a couple of laps of canter in each direction with me asking her for some semblance of collection, and then I let her extend down the long side of the arena heading away from the gate. Not far, but just a touch to let her relax. Then cool down on a long rein.

One of my goals in this rehab is to work on consistent yielding to the bit at all three gaits. It’s one thing that kills us in rail classes, because she doesn’t necessarily want to work under herself, and I think it’s as much a conditioning issue as it is anything else. We pretty much have everything else in good shape, but keeping and sustaining impulsion and collection is a weak spot. We’re not consistent. That falls on both of us, because the rider falls apart as much as the horse does. Ergo, circuits of the big arena where we simply work on maintaining a correct bend, on the bit softly, not behind it, and just lots of building up the strength to sustain that impulsion and collection. When we get it, the result is lovely. We just have to sustain it consistently, for more than a few strides.

Yeah. Schooling is a process, whether you’re training horses or teaching kids. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of this rehab. Last time I had to bring her back after an injury, we suddenly had flying changes. Maybe this time we can develop more consistency. That would be nice.

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