30 Days to Poplar Place: Developing the warmup

Today would’ve been a good day to drink hot tea, snuggled up on the couch, watching good movies. Instead, I, like most of my fellow equestrians, ventured to the barn to tackle the daily chores. I must’ve slept through it, but apparently it rained fairly heavily. Guess that’s why I slept so well.
Our small dressage arena is sand with a little Georgia clay mixed in, so it has the potential to get pretty deep and sticky. Thankfully, although it was still very wet, it wasn’t terribly deep, and Johnny’s legs have gotten used to the footing. Again, I let him amble about on a loose rein for awhile before I asked for any sort of connection. It’s funny that most days feel progressive, but he’s still not where I want him to be at this point. He still hasn’t quite figured out that I want consistency with the connection. Again, I feel this is a bit/tongue issue opposed to straight up resistance to my hand connecting with his mouth. I didn’t use transitions as much today, and perhaps that was the reason that he didn’t truly feel ready to work until the end of our ride. I’m still working on developing a consistent warmup for him that helps him mentally prepare without wearing him down. He definitely needs a good canter to open up, but, as a thoroughbred, cantering tends to jazz him up as opposed to relaxing him. Additionally, because of his roaring, it takes a lot out of him to canter with some degree of ‘collection’ as opposed to galloping on the flat. Thankfully he naturally canters uphill, because there’s not a lot of influencing him when he’s in that mental state. I dread the canter lengthening work. As for me, I focused on maintaining a vertical upper body–I have a tendency to let it collapse, especially when I’m focusing on something like maintaining a consistent, elastic connection with a horse who is so keen on breaking it. Dropping my irons a hole has really helped, though; since my leg is so long, I don’t tend to topple forward anymore. Another added benefit is that I really have to wrap my legs around him: my thighs are burning after only a few minutes of trotting, but I love that feeling. After all, my thighs don’t have to squeeze into boots. Though, I suppose I may have to stop wearing my skinny jeans…
After a 50 minute ride, he finally felt physically ready to work, but he felt done as well. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I can always tell when he’s had enough dressage for one day. The fitter he gets, the more he can take, but it’s a very long and trying process. The good news is that I’m getting more and more of the “yay” moments. I’m quick to praise him–his fragile little ego needs lots and lots of praise heaped on to keep him motivated. I’ve also found that using my voice to help him relax allows me to be less restrictive with my hand when he begins to rush forward. Haha, the more I think about it, the more I realize just how mentally fragile OTTBs can be. I guess that’s why I like working with them so much. There are so many frustrating moments, but they make the successes that much sweeter.

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