Sky is what I would describe as 'hunter' broke. She will trot and canter around in a nice rhythm all day with no real contact on the reins. She seems to have been ridden with more of a headset in mind than actual, true throughness and softness and thus no real elasticity and lifting in her topline. So especially at the walk and trot I've been trying to get her to start stretching down and reaching for the contact. At the canter I'm still just cantering in hunter mode, up out of the saddle in a half seat with light contact. She is a fantastic mover, even better than what I was expecting from her sales video, so I'm excited to see how much improvement we'll see in her gaits as we start developing her flatwork better.
By the way this was pretty much what I was expecting as far as where she would be in her training. Sky has never really had her own person and her own program. She was one of many foals at the large breeding facility where she was born, and then was backed and imported by a jumper barn in Ocala, FL and taken straight into the jumper ring when she was four. It doesn't surprise me that it quickly became apparent that Sky was NOT destined to be a big time jumper. She would be fine as a children's/adult jumper (3'6") but I wouldn't see her progressing up the ranks from there. Sky is definitely more of a hunter and nice horse to do dressage on at the lower levels, and I'm hoping she'll be game to jump around some cross country courses as well. Since she was in a strictly jumper barn she was turned back out after a couple of shows and sat in a pasture for over a year doing nothing. She was purchased by the wonderful people I bought her from a few months ago and was in sporadic work while waiting for a buyer. Sky is six this year.
I plan to do a lot of long and low work at the walk, trot and canter in the next few weeks and work on asking her to relax through her back and stretch into an active, soft contact. After just a few rides she is already starting to get the concept at the walk and trot. I won't push for it at the canter until she's really getting it at the walk and trot. She is also clearly not used to someone truly sitting the canter and is very used to more of a half seat, hunter type ride at the canter. With the incredibly willing attitude and quick learning she's shown me in our first three real rides together it looks like it will be fun to really develop her flatwork. I've already started to incorporate lots of poles in our flatwork and will pop her over a few low fences sometime soon.
Just as she needs some gymnasticizing on the flat I'm sure our jumping will consist of mainly gymnastics at first also. Every Saturday in August our local pony club chapter will have the cross country course used for the Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials open for schooling. The MTPC Horse Trials is actually the oldest consecutively run recognized horse trial in the country. Hopefully I'll have time to take her over there and we can cruise around, go up and down the bank, through the water jump and take in all the sights. She's never seen a cross country course before but she is so sweet and quiet I'm thinking she'll take it well!
I would love to hear about your favorite exercises for relaxing and stretching the topline and teaching them to have true contact. I plan on doing lots of leg yields, spiraling in and out on a circle, changes of direction, etc. Pretty much the usual, basic things. I'm trying to focus on having soft hands and showing her a very inviting contact that she would like to accept. I'm pretty rusty since I've been mostly out of the saddle the last few years so any exercises and tips are welcome. It is amazing all of the things you forget when you aren't using them. I also plan on taking dressage lessons as well after we've gotten to know each other more. I'm lucky to have Tami Crawford, an excellent Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, just seven miles away from me. Tami qualified for the Olympic selection trials on one of her horses a few years ago so I'm excited to take some lessons from her.
In addition to my first rides on Sky our excitement last week was our concern over Jo's weight. Jo is one of our two fainting goats and as I mentioned in my last post we were weighing her in a cooler - and she got nervous, fainted, and fell out the first time! That was traumatizing for Jason and I but she seemed fine with it. Jo is used to being a fainting goat but we still aren't always used to the fainting ourselves!
Anyway, the vet was out to see Jo on Friday. We put Mina and Jo in their stall and she examined both of them for a couple of minutes. Then she looked at us and said "I'm not sure why I'm here. These two goats look amazing. Their coats have a gorgeous shine, their gum tissue and soft tissue around the eyes have perfect color and their weight is excellent." We reiterated to her that Jo had dropped a decent amount of weight and we weren't sure if it was a growth spurt, parasites, or what and that even Mina had dropped a little weight. Well, she said Mina didn't need to get any heavier or she would be really fat (good thing she didn't see her a couple of weeks ago!!!) and that Jo was in perfect weight. As it turns out Jason and I had fat goats that dropped down to a better weight. Oops. What can I say, this isn't the place to be if you want to be a skinny, sad looking animal! We were happy that we had the vet out for absolutely nothing, a much better outcome than it being something!