Thursday, April 19, 2012

That's Right... He's a More-gan...

Between the weather and my first semester back at the college teaching grind, it's been tough this spring to get started working with the Bay Boy Wonder on any sort of consistent basis.  The week I really did get serious about things, I discovered that his saddle isn't fitting anywhere close to satisfactorily, a realization that really took the wind out of the sails of my training plans for the spring.

Tacking up as the sun set after dinner
Last weekend, after another month had gone by without hearing back from the saddle fitter, I elected to bail on my plans to take Sherm to the clinic with Michelle LaBarre.  It breaks my heart to miss it (from the saddle; I'll be there auditing), but I'd much rather postpone LaBarre-level work until I know the BBW is comfortable and has no legitimate excuse to object to any requests I make of him.  Our back-up saddle fitter was called this week, and we have an appointment for a full fitting/adjustment/flocking on May 14th, but that's a full week after the clinic.  So I will attend as an auditor, take lots of notes, and after that, we'll get to work.

We workin'?  I'm ready.
Until then, and as an intermediate step, I did get Sherm a Mattes pad, and have adjusted the shims to fill the gap where the saddle is bridging adequately for light walk work.  For trot and canter, he's back on the longe, without a rider.  And even this isn't easy right now-- I'm dealing with a wicked case of tendinitis in my right elbow, something I've let get ahead of me through the winter.  As I've tried to accommodate it and change the way I work with heavy things, I've strained about every bit of soft tissue between my shoulder and my fingers on my right hand, while seriously over-working my left.  So managing the longe line in one hand and the longe whip in the other has proven really difficult; managing with any semblance of correct timing and authority (both necessary in training) has proven impossible.  I have had to modify my approach to something I'm calling Natural Classical-- I'm working in the longe ring (round pen) instead of the arena in order to prevent bolt-away ya-yas from yanking my lousy elbow.  I've got him on a longe line, which I find useful in communicating the half-halts necessary to move him off his forehand.  I'm driving him forward with a 42" dressage whip and body language.  (Any more whip weight hanging off the end of my hand is ridiculously painful.)  So we look a cowboy, redneck mess out there.  But hey, some work is better than no work, I think, so I'm giving it a go.

Between yesterday afternoon and this evening, we worked two days in a row for the first time all spring, and wow, what a difference. I am happier this evening with his work than I have been in months.  I feel a complete tool for having forgotten three things:
  • This is his first spring coming back to saddle work after a winter off; while his body will come back to fitness and balance, he doesn't have the experience to trust that the way the older horses do, so he's been a little frustrated and distracted by his own lack of coordination.
  • He's a Morgan.  They're not, ever, once-a-week horses.  I should know this after four years of Celby making me pay for every lapse in our work.  Work every day, and I have an amazing, steady, will-run-through-fire-for-me horse.  Let three days go by between sessions, and he's never heard of me;  I have to earn it all over again...
  • He's Sherman, so more work is always the better bet-- it is a very rare experience to have backing off / asking less / taking a break be the proper remedy for whatever is ailing him.  Push him harder through it, and 95% of the time, he drops the silliness.

Twilight with the BBW

So, we worked yesterday, and it was meh.  We worked again tonight, and within 10 minutes, he was engaging, driving from the hind end, and working through his back.  He had regained much of his fleet-footed balance, even to the right (which is so hard for him), and he was happy and attentive in his work (compared to yesterday's frustrated and temperamental).

It's been a long, intermittent winter and spring, with many bouts of frustration and doubt.  Tonight I see light again, and it's all worth it all over again...

I done good; I know how!

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