No school today for Reign Day. Day Six was a snow day. It came at a good time in Reign Day’s training. We have been working every day in the arena and a horse needs a day off to let the training soak in. Reign Day relaxed in his paddock at the snow began to fall. Soon he needed to come in and change into a dry blanket and settle in for the night with a late night hot mash snack.
Day Seven dawned bright and sunny. Yesterday’s snow has covered the farm with a blanket of white 3.6 inches deep. It is warm and the snow is wet so Reign Day’s training will need to work around the difficult conditions caused by the snow balling up in his feet.
So much work can be done at the walk. Working at the walk is often neglected because it is fun to run fast and jump high. Well, today there was no running fast or jumping. We worked on walk/halt transitions and halting squarely and standing quietly. Reign Day even let me do a salute and he stood like a statue. Teaching a horse to halt squarely is important if dressage is in the horse’s future.
Next we worked on learning to back straight. I would ride Reign Day forward and then do a half halt and close my hands yet still keep the leg pressure on him. By not allowing the energy of the walk to move forward I force the energy to go back. It has to go somewhere, so the horse starts backing. I only ask for a few steps and then release the hand pressure. It is easier to get the horse to back if you are walking as you already have the energy underneath you. You just need to make the energy go back rather than allowing the horse to move forward. Too much hand and too much leg and you will ask the horse to go up. We do not want to teach Reign Day to rear! Many people inadvertently teach a horse to rear by clamping down on him when they get nervous. The energy goes up and then the rider releases and teaches the horse that he can escape the harsh hands by rearing up.
Reign Day backed up very well once he understood what I was asking. Next we did some lateral work at the walk on a straight line and later on a circle. He learns so quickly. I need someone on the ground helping me with this. Reign Day was very responsive to my legs but he was over reaching. Sometimes you need a trainer or at least someone on the ground coaching you. They can see the horse’s legs and the rider’s aids and help the rider adjust. We will come back to this lesson next week with some ground help.
Last of all, I made Reign Day stand while I dismounted in the center of the arena. Do not ride to the gate and get off. This teaches the horse that the gate means the end of the ride. I took my time and paused bringing my leg over his butt. He stood quietly and patiently even when I held myself before dropping to the ground.
Reign Day loves the praise and he wants to please. He is a typical Thoroughbred. I am constantly praising him when he does well. I will reach down and pet him gently and tell him he is a good boy. He responds by trying to please me again.
Reign Day is still trying to figure out when we will start working out on the track . . . slowly he will realize that he has made the transition from race horse to sport horse! We are looking forward to his ‘winner’s circles’ photos with his Pony Club rider for our OTTB Success Stories.