Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Arena Work: June 4, 2013

Ahhhh, the arena.  The place where my horse and I have spent so much time these past 10 years.  While I definitely want to get out of the arena, we still really do have a need to work there.  I've noticed Nimo has been a little stiff, so I wanted to set aside some time to work on lateral exercises.  Also, there were a few obstacles I wanted to practice in preparation for our Judged Pleasure Ride coming up this Sunday.  So, I set up a square for a 360 degree turn and an L for a backing exercise.  Then, I wanted to go home and rest because lugging all those poles around was exhausting!

After warming up in the field, we opened the gate to the arena as practice in case it comes up on our ride. While not quite the smooth process that I remember from the days when I was a kid and showed in western trail classes with my little Arabian mare, we did get through the gate reasonably well.
 
 

Next, we did more warm up in the arena because Nimo hasn't been in the outdoor arena for months and he generally gets disturbed by anything new.  Surprisingly, he was calm about the broken fence board and the neighbor mowing the lawn.  Normally, he considers things like broken fence boards to be serious violations of the natural order and I have to spend significant time convincing him that the broken board isn't actually a black hole or rip in the space/time continuum.  He was very forward, but that was a nice change too.

So, we embarked on backing through the L after walking through it.  That was a bit of a disaster.  Apparently, Nimo did not remember that he knew how to back up and proceeded to go in all other directions before grudgingly and messily backing through the L.  We went through it several more times, and he definitely improved, but we are going to need more practice with this one.  Although, I'm assuming if we actually had to do something like this on the trail and the poles were really, say, the side of a cliff, that he would not back off the cliff...Right?...


Then, we wrapped up our work in the outdoor arena by doing some turns on the forehand and hindquarters, followed by 360 degree turns in the square.  And yes, I meant it to look like this.  I wanted there to be enough room for Nimo to maneuver without banging into the poles.  He's a big guy and takes up a lot of space.  At the ride on Sunday, the square was really too small for him and stressed him out.  We had a much better performance with a little bit larger square.


After all this fun, we went into the indoor arena, which was mostly clear of obstacles so we could work on a particular exercise from 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider.  It involves starting with a volte, going into shoulder-in, then half-pass, and then haunches-in.  Essentially, the horse keeps the same bend while starting at one corner of the arena and moving to the other corner across the diagonal and through a turn.  I should note that there was a time when I would never even have considered doing this exercise, but after going through Jane Savoie's Happy Horse training package, I've gotten a lot better about not being scared to try something that is a little outside our comfort zone.

Anyway, we went through the exercise a couple of times at the walk in each direction, and I was surprised by how well he did.  It's possible the previous work had suppled him a bit.  He was also really forward, which is a product of all our work out of the arena.  He is always especially forward the first time I ride after a trail ride, so I was able to harness that energy for some good lateral work.  We then wrapped up with some sitting trot and shoulder-in.  I could tell it was hard for him, but we really haven't done any sitting trot work since I started up riding 7 months ago (after the baby was born), so I was pleased with where he was.

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