Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The LakeHorse (Bayfield 2012)

Another year, another wonderful week up in the Great North. I was delighted to see the owner of the barn where Royal stays had expanded the cross-country course (she caught the Eventing Bug around the same time I did), and he settled right in. The weather was supposed to be nice all week, so I was hoping to try some new things. It's not really a vacation for us, but I try to keep it fun.

Monday was a basic day. We played OnLine and rode Freestyle in the outdoor arena. Royal was a bit fresh, so we even did some hand-galloping so get all his energy out. We also did some pseudo-bridleless riding at the walk and the trot.

Tuesday, my family went on a boat ride that ended up going an hour and a half later than it was supposed to, so I didn't get out to the farm until the evening. We played a bit more on the Feather line, and he was really good. Very light and connected, after he had a little mini-gallop. I think we'll be able to start playing with flying lead changes OnLine soon. I've tried it before, and he would tend to get very strong and disconnected. But now, he seems to want to keep the connection, so I think we can play with it a bit more.

Wednesday and Thursday were both Game of Contact days. I'm starting to step it up a bit, playing with transitions and changes of direction. On Wednesday, it took him a while to settle in, but he started to keep a more steady and quiet contact. I noticed he has a tendency to lift his head in upward transitions, especially going from trot to canter. It got better on Thursday, but I think it stems from his history of diving into the canter. It took him a while to learn how to canter which his weight on his hind end, instead of scrambling on his front end. He still has a tendency to hold tension along his spine, although the GoC has really helped. It helped when I took a tiny bit more contact before asking for the canter and really asking with my core, but at this point, I think we just need more practice with it. He seems to be getting it really well, and is starting to let himself relax and stretch into the contact.

Friday was swimming day, but with a small wrinkle. Thursday was a very windy day, with winds in excess of 30 mph, which made the lake very rough. Like, no one was on the water after about 3pm rough. Friday was a bit calmer, but still with lots of white-caps. So, I trailered Royal down to the Really Really Really Really Really Big Puddle, thinking that if he would go in the lake, any x-c water obstacles would be easy. At first he did his dainty sniffing.

But then he got in and started splashing around.

He seemed confident, so I changed clothes and hopped on. He was a bit unsure, but soon went in, huge waves and all.

We went in and out a few times, and then went back to the barn. I was really proud of him; those white-caps were huge and scary looking, even to me. He was so brave and I was so happy.

Saturday was X-C DAY!!!!! The course was manly show jumps with lots of natural decorations like haybales and mini-tables. He started out very well, apart from a bit of confusion with the white barrels where he wasn't quite focused on them until he was almost on top of them and went "Huh?!" So, redirect and he went over. He went around the rest of the course without many problems. The haybale to table combo was set a bit long, so he had to reach for it, but he was game. He peeked at the bright pink and white cover on one row of bales, and the tube jump, but popped over both. The bank was somewhat overgrown, so he tip-toed up to the edge, but when he found it, he walked off like it was no big deal. It was a fairly sizable bank too, and he also hopped up like it was no big deal either. We quit when we were able to string a mini-course together: carpet-covered-barrels to colored tires to white barrels to tube jump to bright-pink-and-white-haybales, all with no hesitation anywhere.

We then trailered back over to the beach, the wind being much calmer. This time I wanted to see if he would actually swim. He pretty much got right in the way ("The Really Really Really Really Really Big Puddle isn't moving as much anymore! I get to make splashes!"), and I hopped on pretty quickly. It was somewhat hard to navigate beyond the big dock, since there are big rocks and old docks under the water. We ended up having to go kind of around all that and then out. The first time we tried to swim, there was a group of kayakers passing by and they were very confused. "Bob, is that a boat?" "No, it's a... horse?" Poor Royal was also very confused, but he continued on until he couldn't walk anymore. Once we got beyond that point, he sat down on his hind end (talk about engagement) and would push off and paddle for a little bit before pushing off again. We went back and waited a bit before trying again. There were no kayakers this time, and we got a bit further. He still sat back on his hind end and paddled a bit, and I just grabbed mane and hung on. It felt a bit like a carousel horse. We got the furthest out our third time, and he actually paddled for a while before pushing off again. He seemed to enjoy himself, although he still wasn't completely sure about the whole thing. But as always, he was a good spot.

The next day, it was time to go home. He traveled well, and we should have had some love-theme music when he and Gabby were reunited. I'll try to find some local horse-friendly beaches so we don't have to wait another year to go swimming again, but hopefully swimming increased his confidence. After all, he swam in Lake Superior. He can do anything.

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