Another great weekend with my little puff and stuff.
We finally got our makeshift dressage arena set up. Helen brought letters, buckets and pvc pipes from her parents house for the corners and I picked up some cheap orange and yellow cones I found at Academy for the sides. We hope to make it a little better later, but for now it's working okay.
I've come to realize that North is definitely an arena horse. He just works better when he has a defined area to work in. He's less distracted and more focused on what I'm asking. When I ride him in the pastures, it can take 20 min before I can get him focused and paying attention. He's a baby, so he's easily distracted. In the front riding area, there's tons of jumps, cavaletti's, barrels, etc. so he tends to be all over the place checking things out or snorting at suspicious pink crossrails. Lol. I've also realized that he's better when we don't ride with other horses. It just seems to be too much stimulant for him when other horses are working around him. He also prefers to have a human on the ground nearby when we school. I can't explain it, but he trusts us and feels more secure when someone is nearby. Like when we were doing the tarps. He didn't care that his pasture mate walked over them with no issue. It was when the girl's mom walked over them that he thought, "Okay, I can do this." Lol. He's so cute.
So yea, having our makeshift arena has made it really fun. He just understands that we're working now and pays attention. We rode in it for the first time Saturday morning and it was a really good session. Sunday we had our first lesson with Helen since before the Christmas holidays and she was ecstatic with both of our progress. She loves North so much and can't stop remarking how lucky I was to find him. "He is just a REALLY nice horse." She swears that her next horse will be a baby. Lol. I think she agrees with me that the journey is 10 times easier when you're starting with a clean slate as long as the temperament and willingness are there.
So advantages to having the arena is, of course, having boundaries - corners and lines to work from. We really worked on keeping him consistent in changes in the bend, keeping the bend on straight lines, and using the boundaries for changes of direction. For the first time since probably August, I put my spurs back on. Helen watched my video from Saturday and said I'm using too much leg to get what I want, and especially on the left side, I've just got too much going on. It's causing me to lose my position and for my lower leg to be way to active. He's stiffer on the left, so it's harder to get the bend and get him into my outside rein.
It was really a big difference with the spurs. I tend to be more conscious of what my lower leg is doing when I wear spurs because I don't want to poke him unnecessarily, so it really helped me to keep my lower leg more still. When I need a lot of leg (which I tend to with my lazy pony), I have the tendency to turn my toes outwards and really push with first my calf, then my heel. It's a bad habit and something I will be working to re-train. Helen showed me that I need to keep my toes pointed forward and kinda wrap my leg under him and squeeze. Then if I needed more reminder, I could touch with the spur. But having the spurs made a big difference on keeping him forward. He knew they were there and really worked to give me what I asked. I was worried that I would be clumsy with my lower leg and hit him too much and get some objections, but it didn't happen.
Towards the end of our lesson, Helen wanted me to try cantering him, but I said, "You first!" Lol. After hopping on and giving it a few tries, she agreed that I was right to ask her to try first. It's just so hard to get the canter together with him. She started on right lead and he'd pick up left lead. Then switched to left lead, and he picked up right lead. Then cross cantering! Not to mention that he really struggles with turning in the canter and to him, canter means go fast! Lol. After several tries, they finally started to get it, and I was so proud of him cause you could see how hard he was trying to figure it out.
Below is a short video with clips from our lesson and then Helen cantering North at the end. You'll notice how much she pats him. He really loves to be told he's doing well and responds so positively to it. Did I mention how freakin cute he is?? Lol.