Road Trip #3: Dino Discovers His Calling

With the DISASTER of Road Trip #2 a few months behind us, I got up enough courage to  embark on a new adventure. The last trip was so bad, I have no pix, no blog posts…there was nothing about it I wanted to remember. Let’s just say it included the dredging of the adjacent creek with a nifty little tractor that grabs the brush, snaps it out of the ground and pulverizes it all in one swift move….not something that goes over well with a green horse learning to travel.

Today went better. Dino discovered his true calling…Polo. Seriously, the horse was mesmerized by the polo ponies. Most horses would freak hearing the horses gallop up and down the arena, smacking the ball against the wall. Not this 17.1 hand giant. He wanted to play! I don’t know how to break the news to him, that a lumbering horse like Dino is not suited for the fast moving pace of arena polo….I guess I’ll just let him dream.

Dino Dreams of Playing Polo
Dino Dreams of Playing Polo
The rest of the trip just points out how far Dino needs to go before he becomes a show horse. He is still very nervous and tense. It didn’t stop him from dropping in the warm up arena for a good roll, however. How am I going to show this horse if he needs to roll every time he arrives at a new location???

Dino makes himself at home.
Dino makes himself at home.
I was able to get on and ride a bit, but to describe him as unfocused would be an understatement. Dino was so tense and ADHD, he could barely “hear” the aids.  I never got anything really nice out of him, but it will come. I just need patience, and he needs experience.

Dino learning to be a dressage horse-even if he would rather play polo!
Dino learning to be a dressage horse-even if he would rather play polo!
The good news is that Dino trailers like a champ. He stayed tied to the trailer with no issues while I helped Kelsey school pony over some Xcountry fences. (I remember a certain thoroughbred digging holes to China while tied to the trailer…. so happy I don’t have to deal with that again).  Dino really is a good boy, but he did throw a  little fit when I took him away from the polo ponies ;-). Silly dinosaur!

I love this Dinosaur!
I love this Dinosaur!

Baby Dino Learning Half Pass

Baby Dino is growing up and beginning to learn some big boy dressage movements! Dino is still 3 (4 next month!), and spent most of the year riding-wise just goofing around hacking in a relaxed frame. But, his young age hasn’t stopped us from working on some upper level movements. We just do them in-hand!

The half-pass builds on the very basic lateral movements that baby Dino began learning in-hand as a 2 year old. Dino knows how to perform haunches-in and shoulder-in from my touch. This was then used to build the side pass. When Dino had these movements down, the half pass, was the next logical progression.

Half pass is a forward and sideways movement where the horse is bent in the direction of travel and around your inside leg. Although this sounds similar to the side pass, it is a much more difficult gymnastic for the horse to perform. It is a great exercise to teach in-hand as there is no weight of the rider to influence the horse’s balance. The horse is free to figure it out himself.

Dino picked this up fairly easily at the walk and is progressing to the trot.  He still has his 3 year old moments, but he really does try. You can see his concentration in the pictures below. Gotta Love the Dino!!

Sweet 16 Ride!

For Wiley’s 16th ever ride under saddle, Kelsey (13) took the reins. Wiley is already 16.3 and Kelsey is just at 5 feet, so they made an interesting pair. I just let them walk around, and Wiley was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of them both!

Although this was a fun thing to do for Wiley’s Sweet 16 Ride, there really is a reason why I did it. I wanted to start generalizing Wiley’s under saddle training. I don’t want Wiley thinking that I am the only one that can ride him. He needs to learn that it is OK for others to get on him. I start slow, and feather in other riders occasionally. Everyone gives aids a bit differently. Wiley needs to understand that all of that is OK. He passed his first test with flying colors!

Wiley has gotten to the point that if I told a competent rider he was an old, un-tuned lesson horse, they would get on and ride thinking nothing of it. His steering is a bit jerky at the walk and trot.  And at the canter, his steering is still a work in progress, but he rides like a kid’s lesson horse. He knows the basic aids, it  just takes him a bit of extra time to process them.  Wiley’s transitions are decent. He only trots a few steps before the canter. He picks up his correct leads most of the time and he keeps a consistent pace. He can trot serpentines, and he can back, turn on the haunches and forehand relatively decently. He just needs time in the saddle and his response times will get better. I started riding him outside the arena as well. So far, so good, but of course, I am taking it sloooooow!

Transferring Aids – Ground Work to Under Saddle Cues

Wiley has been ridden a total of about 2 hours in his lifetime. In this video, I am beginning the process of transferring some of Wiley’s aids from ground work to under saddle. Wiley is clicker trained, so he is rewarded after each correct effort.

The lateral aids I used on the ground for turn on the forehand and haunches are close to the aids under saddle. With very little ride time, Wiley is already starting to understand these movements. He can delineate between an aid slightly in front of the girth (move the shoulder) from an aid behind the girth (move the haunches). Backing while giving at the poll was just a straight pick up from ground work.

At this point in Wiley’s training, most  cues are very light tactile aids. I can use one finger on the reins or a touch of the stirrup for Wiley to understand what I want. Notice on the backing aids, however, that Wiley makes a big “give” while backing. That is not from pressure. That is from his training to give while backing.  He is just making a big effort here. Wiley can back with one finger on the reins. The one thing Wiley isn’t very good at yet is turning while moving forward. He is just learning to control his body. For now, sometimes he over turns, and sometimes he under turns. Sometimes he doesn’t turn at all and sometimes his body doesn’t follow his nose, and he pops a shoulder out. Since I am not yet using leg aids to control his body while riding (I am working on getting the forward cues solid), I use a dressage whip to touch his shoulder and remind him to keep it in line. Works perfectly. The turning thing just takes time for him to understand just how much turn I want. It will come with experience.

Wiley is also learning to canter. This video is of his third time ever cantering under saddle. Although you can’t hear it because of wind noise, I am using a verbal canter cue to help Wiley understand what I want. When he first transitions to the canter, I reward him so he knows he is doing the right thing. The second time I ask, I let him canter a few circles before the reward. Even though his canter is very smooth and rhythmic, I can tell he is still very unsure of himself. I will keep his catnering very short until he gains confidence and balance.

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