Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Walk It Out

Sofie has been doing well. She always starts out rather grumpily, since the grooming-and-tacking-up process requires us to use a currycomb or brush on her sore spots, and then we have to bring out the saddle (ugh) and girth it up (UGH!). In addition to her chest, sternum, right hip and right shoulder (always touchy areas) she spooked at something a few days ago while standing in the aisle, and slid on the concrete (making a huge scrape mark). She even went three-legged for a few seconds, holding her left hind (which made the huge scrape mark) off the ground, so obviously it twinged pretty good. She was quite calm while she was three-legged ("I'll just rest this leg for a wee bit") and when I turned her out in the arena she moved sound, and even did her version of a gallop (a somewhat lengthened canter) around the arena. But her aisle-slide obviously pulled something out of whack, because her left hip was "touchy" the last time I saw her. She wasn't lame, so I rode anyway, since if I left her alone every time she was "touchy" anywhere, she would be obese from lack of exercise, and probably worse off.

She free-longed like a maniac (cantering all over the place, striking out with her front legs during canter departs, doing a half canter-half trot gait so it looked like she was pacing, and almost running into the arena walls, and then doing crazy spins. Yeah, THAT's really gonna help that hip feel better!) but only for eight minutes. Then she started actually looking somewhat submissive, so we quit.

She loosened up and improved over the course of the ride, and by the end she was using her back, reaching into the contact and moving forward. I did a little trot work, but it was not exactly stellar, due to her right shoulder bothering her when we tracked right, and her left hip bothering her when we tracked left. So we mostly did walk work. I'm a big fan of walk work, since it's a lot easier to maintain your contact, sit balanced, plan your turns, do tighter turns, etc. And the walk is the gait where Sofie is most comfortable. It's a good gait for rehab, especially on days when she is "touchy".

Sofie's walk has always been good. She doesn't have a huge overstep or anything, but her walk is forward and relaxed. She has never had "issues" at the walk (well, except when we were trying out a "corrective" saddle pad...but that's another tale for another day). Even in the days when our trot work looked like this:

Rhythm, Relaxation and Connection? Not so much...but we CAN demonstrate a beautiful example of Rushing, Tension and Inversion!

Our walk work was looking respectable:

There. THAT somewhat resembles dressage!

I love the walk. The walk is the gait where we can work on our relaxation, and build those topline muscles. And I'm starting to teach Sofie some lateral work, too. She will kind of leg-yield tracking right (but not tracking left for some reason...that's also the side where she has "issues" with staying on the rail), and I'm beginning to develop turn on the forehand. I haven't done much lateral work at all, so I kind of had to just experiment, since I didn't want to use my former instructor's method for teaching a green horse the TOF (standing at the horse's head while the rider applies leg, and jerking the horse in the mouth when it tries to move forward. Ugh!).

Instead I rode smaller circles at the walk, using my inside leg and resisting with my seat a little bit to avoid speeding up. Smart Sofie has found the concept of crossing over behind much easier than the pony I used to ride. So we got some good crossover steps, and as I halted her, she even crossed over a bit at a standstill. I was happy that she was starting to learn an actual "movement" without me having to get all up in her face, and that she stayed calm and listened (even when another horse was leaving the arena). And my ride wound up being almost an hour. Now if we could just get her trot and canter as good as her walk! One day at a time...


  1. Walk is often the hardest gait to master.

    I was thinking about your blog today and dressage. Have I ever mentioned www.interdressage.com to you? It's an excellent way to get very good pointers and compete for real prize money and rosettes for a very affordable price.

    Indigo was really funny going to the left at first when I asked her to yield to my leg pressure. I fixed this by making her sidepass at a solid gate/fence/barn so there was no yanking on her face when she went forward. She is awesome at it now and will sidepass forever as well as turn on the forehand/haunches wonderfully. I've used it on many youngsters with great success when I want it to translate over to half passes and such.

  2. Thanks, I'll have to check out that site!

    Yeah, I was planning on experimenting with leg-yielding while going towards the arena wall. I've already been using the wall as a reminder that, "yes, you ARE going to stop", so it may help to teach her the leg yield, which she NEEDS to learn on the left side to correct her falling-in-itis.