Sometimes you’ve just gotta play

As we go through the countdown to the horse show next weekend, one thing I have to focus on is the balance between overtraining and just enough work to have the horse ready for three days of focused work under saddle. Part of that includes the appropriate scheduling of the type of classes (how many reining classes the first night, how many Western Pleasure–a discipline Mocha dislikes–classes to end out on the last day. For us WP is more just practice in working in an arena around other horses and, at this show, a chance to work out body kinks from reining and trail classes. We often place but seldom higher than third, if that.). But another part is, simply, making sure that her back is used to having a saddle on it for three days in a row. Between hock injections, hoof issues and the start of school, we’ve backed off on our regular daily rides, so I’ve been trying to get on her back for multiple days in a row to get her used to it again. Not too hard, but–

That also means that this middle-aged lady needs to make sure that her back and legs are also in shape. So–many days of riding in a row.

But too much schooling on a finished horse ends up with overwound (Mocha is now aware we’re drilling for a show, just because of the pieces I’m focusing on, and she’s winding up) and overdone horse brain. Last night was, simply, play and conditioning time.

We ended up thundering around the outdoor arena with a couple of other riders. While I did a little bit of schooling focusing on bending and flexing, we also did a lot of play. One of the other riders has a young and energetic horse who viewed the canter sessions as a bit of a chase/race game–and Mocha, though mature, locked enthusiastically into galloping around. She was pretty respectable, too. I think that if we’d had a good straight stretch where I could let her go, she’d have smoked that younger mare, as she kept gaining on her during the straightaway. The younger mare, being smaller, gained on the turns.

It wasn’t all about racing, though. We rode the two horses together and played a little bit of drill team, worked on walking over railroad ties, and otherwise just plain had an unfocused, relaxed, let’s just romp and play time. Good for both of us.

Time off tonight, then two days in a row, another day off, then three days, another day off, and then the show. We’ve got the pieces down so now I just have to focus on conditioning and not overtraining or overdrilling. A delicate balance–but I’ve managed to pull it off before. Hopefully I can do it again.

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