Sunday, December 18, 2011
Random Thoughts About Chrome
Chrome gets his hooves done tomorrow and it's also the nineteenth so I'll be measuring him and taking pictures. :) As it gets closer and closer to May when he'll turn three I think more and more about riding him. The excitement is starting to edge out the nervousness. I've been thinking about how much I'm going to ride him and what speed we're going to progress with training and I'm leaning toward overly cautious. I want to be riding Chrome when he's twenty five years old, so I don't want to do too much with him too soon and risk injury or early onset of arthritis.
So here are my thoughts. I want to sit on him for the first time on May 19th 2012 the day he turns three years old. I've leaned across his back on my belly, but for actually sitting on him I want to wait. I'm not sure why. I guess so I'll always remember the day I sat on him the first time or something. I can be very sentimental, but you all probably just think I'm being a dork. So the plan is on that day to sit on him and take some pictures. Then I'll spend a week or so just getting on (I'll train him to stand by a mounting block before then), click/treat, get off and repeat a few times until he gets completely comfortable with it and isn't goosey or anything. We might also work on stuff like dropping things, taking off/putting on jackets, etc.
When he's totally comfortable with mounting and dismounting I'll ask him to do lateral flexes to both sides, so I'll have my emergency brake (I know that's controversial to some people, but it has served me well, so I'll teach it to him). I can then work on disengaging the hindquarters. When he's good with that I'll ask him to walk with someone leading him in case he panics. I'll teach him to move off a gentle leg pressure/voice cue with a leader before trying it on my own. When we're walking on our own I'll work on the one rein stop so he knows how to do it out of a walk from both sides. When we have a good walk, whoa and one rein stop I'll work on steering. I'll also work on moving his shoulders around at this point and backing with a relaxed topline.
I'll probably only ride once a week for a while, just working on the basics for ten minutes or however long his attention span holds and just do hand walking/ponying/clicker session for the rest of the week. As his attention span increases I'll ride for up to twenty minutes at the walk. When he's really good at all of that in the pasture I'll take him out on the trail, with a leader or pony horse if I can find one. As his "carrying" muscles get stronger and he feels more balanced and stronger I might introduce trotting a little bit. The only thing with trotting is that I don't have a saddle so this will all be bareback until I can afford one. I may be able to get a bareback pad with stirrups (do those put too much direct pressure on the spine?) though so we will see. I don't want to be bouncing around on his back and teach him to hollow it to protect himself. I'll see if I can find a horse to practice my sitting trot with. I used to be able to do it without bouncing, but that was around five years ago so I'm sure I'm out of practice. So trotting will happen when we are both ready for it.
I'll give him the winter off and when he turns four I'll review the basics and definitely be trotting by then. When his trot is balanced and strong I'm going to start longeing him. I like the idea of teaching new behaviors on the longe so he can learn them without the interference of a rider, but I don't want to longe him too early since circles can be so stressful on his joints and growth plates. I'll only longe for ten minutes and use it to teach voice cues for walk, trot, canter, whoa, back and changing direction. Once he knows the cue for cantering I'll add it under saddle. I don't want him to learn to trot faster and faster into the canter. I want him to have a forward trot, but not a scrambling one. I know the transitions will be sloppy starting out, I just don't want it to become a habit. Trotting fast into the canter is one of the most annoying habits to me (well besides the dangerous ones lol). I know it's all about the strength and balance to do it, which I why I want to introduce it on the longe first (or grounding driving if I get good enough at it to work at the canter lol) so he builds the muscle to make a smooth transition from a nice working trot.
By the time he's late four or early five I'll probably start dressage lessons on him. Before that it will just be trail riding and messing around in the pasture. I don't want to ask him to carry himself in a frame too soon, but I don't want to pay for lessons just to teach the basics if that makes any sense. We will take all of it slow and I'll only progress as he's ready.
Anyway, sorry for rambling on. I've just been thinking about it a lot and wanted to write it all down. Suggestions, advice and opinions are always welcome. :D