Well, since I last posted in my little series about retraining Arabee using dressage principles - things in real life got busy!! Specifically, corn and soybean harvest happened on our farm. Which meant that my pretty mare got a nice rest in the pasture.....again. Never fear of Arabee getting overworked!!
The next steps in my little "retraining" program involved longing over cavaletti, longing on a slope, and then beginning under saddle work with large circles to establish a good trot rhythm. All of which have not happened, and I'm good with that. The longe work was fun, because I was able to watch my GORGEOUS horse move about....but that was about it.
I got another dressage book from the library that was geared toward beginners like me who already have a horse and ride it, but want to start doing dressage (if anyone really wants to know what it is, I'll look up name and author - I had to return it already).
In that book, it pretty much said to do the preliminary longe work, similar to what I described, then set out riding to develop an independant seat in the rider before doing any "real" dressage stuff through the use of fancy exercises with arms, legs, etc.
So the day the book was due back at the library, I took some notes about all the different recommended exercises. The problem is that a lot of them require knotting the reins on your horse's neck, DROPPING THE REINS, and then raising your arms in various figures and motions about your body. Which I feel is not such a hot idea when riding on the county road!!
Anyway, I've been riding! Between Thanksgiving and the end of November, I rode I think 3 times: the first time about not quite 10 minutes, the second time a little over 10 minutes, and the third time nearly 20 minutes of riding! I tried riding with my reins clipped to the bit with the sliding sidereins still on - which Arabee hated. So I'm sticking with my reins on some sort of bitless device for a while until I can educate my hands enough to get along with my mare. I tried a few different arrangements - but so far really like what I've got now.
My current set-up is a loose ring snaffle hanging from a bit hanger, with the Dr. Cook's on top. My reins are attached to the bitless bridle, and the sliding sidereins are hooked up to the bit. Arabee goes really well in this - and while I realize it's totally a crutch - it boosts my confidence because when she gets super alert (such as when we rode past a place where two chainsaws were running, one of them is felling trees, all while two cars drove by) the sliding sidereins are there to remind her to keep her neck low - which is calming. Don't get me wrong - she still gets high headed, really she has nearly full range of motion with her neck - but the sliding reins through the bit remind her of her job. My reins on the bitless bridle guide her, without pain in her mouth because apparantly I have a lot of work to do in training my hands. Anyway, it works well now, with the short rides I'm doing. It would NOT work on a "real" trail ride - because she can't quite reach down to grab grass or water. I'm working on ways to get away from the sidereins, eventually - as I get my "exercises" worked on, I'll gradually lengthen them until I can ditch 'em. But seeing as I'm terribly sore-legged after my 20 minutes of walk and trot rides - we're a LOOOOONG ways away from an actual, haul-out-to-a-park and ride sort of trail ride.
So, I'm participating in the Big Bad Bloggers' Distance Ride - a virtual ride where you keep track of your riding miles from December 1st 2011 - November 30, 2012. So far I've ridden three times in December - for a grand total of: 3.25 miles!! My in-the-saddle time was 51 minutes, so my pace was about 3.8 mph. It may be turtle-slow, but I do not care because I have been having SO.MUCH.FUN!!! My last ride on Tuesday was the shortest, but I cantered my mare two times (on purpose!) and that was thrilling. She is such a good horse!
Thus far, my rides have been pretty much like this: catch Arabee, let her eat grass while I scrape the dried mud off her tack areas, bring her up for tacking up, then 5 minutes longing each direction, then clip on reins, check girth and ride the day's planned route, hop off, untack, allow her to graze more, then done. Short and sweet - but it's enough to put joy in my heart. :-)
Also, unless circumstances change drastically - the plan is to ride again tonight: from home, to the stop sign, and back (not quite 2 miles- I'll have to measure it before I can report it for the BBBDR) - which will be my longest ride yet for this season! I may throw in a few laps of the barn lot to make it an even 2.
And now my blog is up-to-date on what's actually been going on with my horse.