30 Days to Poplar Place: Playing it by ear

As is the usual in the south, the weather is rather wonky these days. It’s t-shirt weather with temps hovering in the 70s during the day and the 60s at night. Looks like I clipped Johnny just in time. With the warmer weather and 100% humidity, though, my hip is definitely aching–I’m almost looking forward to Monday’s injection and subsequent pain relief.
I had planned on taking Johnny out for a hack today, but I changed my mind in favor of more dressage. We’ll hack out tomorrow to give him a mental break and then Sunday will be a nice gallop to refresh him.
After two years of frustration, I feel like Johnny is finally starting to “get it.” Haha, we’re not winning any USDF shows anytime soon, but for eventing dressage, I think we’ll do just fine. Today we did canter-trot-canter transitions with fantastic results on the right lead, but the left lead still produces the ‘off to the races’ response. Unfortunately for Johnny, I’ve decided that since he’s starting to grasp the concept, it’s time for me to stop being quite so forgiving. I asked him to push through and over at the canter today, and as expected, he threw his head into the air and braced–HARD. I sent him sideways. And, again, as I expected, he thoroughly panicked and skittered across the arena. But, while my upper level dressage skills are lacking, 17 years in the saddle does teach you one very important thing: keep your butt in the middle of the saddle and you’ll stay with the horse. Pushing the horse sideways (while keeping the forward momentum–they can slow down, but they must maintain the gait) forces the horse to find his balance and will eventually result in the desired result. So, as Johnny skittered, I kept sending him laterally while holding the same contact, and finally, he came up over his topline and into the bridle. He got an enthusiastic “WHAT A GOOD BOY!!” for his efforts. I have a feeling that next week’s canter work will be much improved. I just hope I can get back into the saddle by Tuesday!


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