Month 8 Recap – July

I’m not counting June as a training month because I hardly rode at all. I’m a member of a homeschooling group and I invited the homeschoolers to come out to the barn for a riding and horse care lesson. Tons of families took me up on the offer and, for the month of June, Thunder was a prince and ponied around the homeschool kids. All the kids had a blast but I got no training done.

Thunder with some homeschoolers.
Thunder with some homeschoolers.

July, however, was probably the best month yet in terms of improvement. We changed barns and I now have a huge flat pasture to ride in, and even jumps! We’re close to the lake so we can do a trail ride down to the lake and back. So far it’s been a fantastic improvement for us. We have the space we need to get our work done.

Looking shiny!
Looking shiny!

In July I focused on riding Intro A (dressage test) and jumping little crossrails to build his confidence. Turns out Thunder wants to be a jumper. If there are jumps set up in the pasture and I don’t let him jump them, he gets pissy. He does not, on the other hand, love dressage. He gets pretty bored on our flat work days.

How good does he look here?!?
How good does he look here?!?

He is jumping like a pro though. His form needs work; he still doesn’t tuck his knees well, but he’s just starting to jump verticals and I think his form will improve as the jumps require more work out of him. I need to work on my position as well. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a lesson and I need one.

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I am so happy with how he’s progressing. We still have high headed moments, but he is such a changed horse from last fall. His way of going has changed immensely and his gaits have improved. We’re even starting to work on cantering. It needs work of course, but considering that he almost could not trot when I bought him, I think he’s doing pretty damn good.

Canter!
Canter!

As much as I love Baron, the stars just never aligned for us. As soon as we started progressing, he would get hurt or I would get pregnant and then we would stagnate for months and months. With Thunder I finally feel like I have the right partner for me. He’s easy to deal with, cheap to feed, and feels like the perfect horse for me. I trust him to be level headed and take care of me, and he trusts me not to ask him to do anything crazy.

Beginning lateral work.
Beginning lateral work.

My next step is to start preparing for a schooling show. I’m deciding if I want to do a Combined Training show and ride Intro A and a show jumping class (with 12 inch jumps), or if I want to take him to a hunter show and do walk-trot-canter and a crossrail class. In any case, I could not be happier with him. I am so proud of the horse he has turned into and I’m grateful to have him as my partner.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I worked Thunder hard yesterday, asked him to trot longer than I have before. I am by no means any sort of fitness queen, but I think Thunder is more out of shape than me. I get the feeling that trotting for any length of time is really, really hard for him. He has to slow down and pay attention and I think it’s actually more taxing on him than just cantering full speed ahead. The combination of having to move in rhythm and pay attention to my aids is mentally exhausting for him.

He’s learning that the easiest way to carry me is to trot rhythmically. It takes more energy to constantly speed up and slow down than it does to maintain a steady tempo. As long as he gives me a decently energized trot, I leave him alone. If he slows down to his poky, lazy trot, I add leg. If he does his weird canter hop thing, I half halt. He’s learned that it’s easier to just trot around with enough energy to keep me happy.

I’m going to show you some shots from our last ride. You can see when he throws his head in the air, when he stretches, and when he carries himself in a less giraffe-ey way. Be warned. Our ugly moments are totally, absolutely ugly. Fugly even.

So here’s the ugly stuff:

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See what I mean? Not exactly a show hunter just yet. He throws his head up during transitions and when he’s just plain over it. It’s happening less and less, but this ride I worked him hard and asked him to trot longer periods and I think he was letting me know that he needs to build up his fitness and this is hard for him. Fair enough.

Here’s the stretchy stuff.

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I love the first picture to the far left. He’s doing this more and more and throwing his head around less and less.

Finally, here’s the good stuff. These give me hope that one day he’ll be a horse and not a llama.

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