Thursday, May 15, 2014

Playing Games

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.  -Bill Watterson
It was a late evening arrival to the barn, so I knew I would probably be short on time.  I was hitting up Fancy Pony for a ride, and my riding partner arrived!  Alas, her pony is currently on the mend from an unidentifiable something in a hind leg.  I asked her, "Do you want to ride with me?"
Oh, the look of longing on her face as she said, "Noooo..." followed by some excuses as her mom looked on with sympathy...

Long story short, she tacked up Cricket and rode with me!
Bonus, both horses got a longer ride for it!

Cricket has been cross-cantering behind.  Both direction.  On the lunge, as well as under saddle.
We are coordinating chiro and/or massage and considering a thorough soundness evaluation.

In the meanwhile, I've been focusing on teaching Cricket to stretch and step through with the hinds, move forward into the bit, and stay rhythmic and relaxed.  This is in opposition of her tendency to compress and suck back from the bit.  She has been picking up on it pretty well, and the longer we trot, the looser and more relaxed she gets!  I have not been cantering...  Strength and relaxation.  I told myself that if she ofered it, I would ride it, but that I wanted to focus on these other fundamentals first.  So, In our trot work, I've managed to keep her balanced enough that she hasn't fallen into the canter as I pushed her trot for more length.

So, as RP (riding partner), is tooling around on Cricket and learning her buttons and feeling for what I've been working on, she begins to play with the flexibility and elasticity of Cricket's gaits.  RP quickly pics up on Cricket's stiffness both directions, as well as her perma-bend to the right.  They trot over poles in all manner of configurations, and suddenly, Cricket offers the canter.  She did it for 2 strides, then RP pulled her back to the trot.  RP was worried that she *shouldn't* be cantering the pony, so I explained that I only wanted to if she offered.  You know, just to make sure that I wasn't forcing her to do it through pain...

Relieved, RP proceeds to canter Cricket all over the place!  This turned out to be an excellent opportunity for me, because I could see from the ground many of the factors at play, and which ones helped or hindered Cricket's canter issues.  But, *OH*, how I wanted to feel that canter!  I wanted to play, too!
Don't get me wrong, I was thoroughly enjoying my own play on the Fancy Pony, but I was still getting to know Cricket, and I wanted to hear her whisper those secrets to me that she was whispering to RP...  On the other hand, I was also thrilled that RP was able to enjoy this experience!

Cricket did her best to maintain her lead behind, but she would sudden;y hop-and-switch behind then swap back within a couple strides.  If she couldn't swap back, she would break to trot and resume with a united canter.  Cricket did all of these things on her own!  If RP held her to large, smooth, sweeping turns, Cricket held the lead.  If RP turned suddenly, Cricket swapped.  Cricket offered walk-canter transitions all on her own.  In all, Cricket looked thrilled to be cantering around so freely.  Well, free for Cricket...  For the rest of us, it was a canter like a pogo stick...

I set up a cross-rail for them to play over, and we addressed Cricket's boldness.  Yes, she stopped the first several times, but she never retreated or swerved.  She considered, then stepped delicately over the cross-rail.  The finished by cantering up to, then trotting over, the cross-rail!!

It was a game played for the sheer joy of trying new things.  Our enthusiasm carried over to Cricket, and she joined in on the fun!

I'm pretty sure Fancy Pony was jealous that she didn't get to jump, though...

Cricket with RP  -  Fancy Pony with me
What a lovely time!  I can't wait to show Cricket more fun games!

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