April 2011: Eltons Daily Program

The end of March and first two weeks of April flew by this year. The Florida Dressage Experience Program was held over in Florida as more customers wanted extra time . Elton ‘s daily program of a short lunge with side reins and a short ride of training level movements continued but by the first of April I had been shortening the side reins and placing them higher in order to allow him to begin to change his balance into a more uphill outline. He is clearly beginning to have the back strength to carry me and bascule his back while beginning to lift his neck while moving.

By the second week of April he was not only cantering confidently but came onto the bit in a round connection and I was thrilled. Some of the trainers were there to witness this and were thrilled. I reminded them that the key to riding young horses was to have balanced riders on the horses. If you ride well the horses progress beautifully because you do not have to un-do bad riding or mistakes. In addition, encouraging the young horses to be in correct position/balance from the start is important. If they are ridden ( schooled with weight) in poor balance and crooked posture they learn to carry themselves improperly. They manage the unbalanced weight by bracing and leaning against the aids.

One of our visiting riders has been addressing her spinal straightness with chiropractic adjustments and work through Pilates. She is greatly improved but still not completely balanced. Elton who has carried very few riders was shocked by her imbalance. Young horses who have only had balanced riders are often surprised by “normal” riders who are crooked and often lacking in elasticity. Although he carried her quietly he uncharacteristically drifted sideways and lacked some of his usual confidence by the end of the ride.

As the heat came on in April Elton shed out to a glossy liver Brown and looks great. None of us are used to the Florida heat and so we were working very early in the mornings and trying to finish by mid-day. Locals tell us this was one of the warmer winter seasons ever down there.

Elton and pasture mate Aryzona were picked up by the truckers April 20 and arrived to Tammy’s care at Knowlton Corner Farm , in Farmington by early evening on the 21st. They were both back to cool weather and blankets for them. The transporters said Elton ate and drank like a trooper and was easy to handle.

Mud season and rain is in full force and Elton has been livelier. I have been vigilant to be sure to free lunge or lunge him before riding as he has been friskier than normal. He had 10 days off over the transport period and the few days after I got home. His first session at Knowlton corner were lively but behaved. Just this week I began to ask for leg-yield at the walk as he had been doing a great job with trot to halt on the long side, followed by turn-on the forehand and trot forward. With that exercise conquered, I felt he was clear about the leg aids to move SIDEWAYS away from the leg rather than forward. Yesterday I rode him in the outdoor arena for the first time . He was quiet and co-operative.

In addition to his under saddle work, I am continuing his ground work for in-hand work, belly lifts and tail pulls daily and have begun to put him alongside of the wall to begin the very beginning suggestions of the whip work needed for the piaffe in – hand.

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