Maine is a great place to be with a horse in the summer. The days are warm and the nights are cool. Elton blossomed over the summer here. June was filled with 3 or 4 days a week of training for him. He was three years old on June 6 and he had been trained continuously 11 months about 3-4 days a week. His under saddle work has progressed but he is still on only 20 minutes of actual carrying of weight. He easily cantered the long side of the in-door and went around the short side in counter canter returning to true canter on the diagonal with ease. His trot work was full of centerlines and three loop serpentines from first level test one.
Mid- July brought us a change. Mark and I took a much needed two weeks off to enjoy and help with son Thomas and Britny’s wedding and then a few days of camping to rest. Our barn manager’s daughter Starr is a mature teen who I engaged to do some things with Elton during this hiatus. Starr arranged for grazing walks, baths on hot days, long grooming sessions, lunging off his halter and some ‘play” time in the in-door arena. I encouraged Starr to “play” with Elton. Summer brings us youngsters riding camp and mentally handicapped riding programs and consequently we have a great assortment of interesting things daily in the in-door. They range from beach balls, to road cones, tarps, tiny jumps, hoola hoops and assorted toys. I asked Starr to encourage Elton to “play” with her . He especially like to play ”ball” with her with an underinflated soccer ball that he could pick up with his mouth. In addition Starr ‘played ‘ with him asking him to follow her around and over all new obstacles and have some ‘fun”. It is important that it is not always only work when the young horses are taken to the arena. Those horses that are naturally claustrophobic can become increasingly stressed in the arena if they are always pressed when there. I checked in occasionally with Starr and she reported that Elton was happy and all was well.
In August my work included a heavy judging schedule and lots of clinics organized all
over the country to get clients ready for their on-coming national championships. Elton who had been level throughout the spring now appeared to be croup high and having a growing spell. With other horses in training that needing my attention I decided to continue to focus on non-riding work for Elton through August. In-hand work is normally done in his bridle and I wear gloves, helmet and boots or clogs . ( and with horses not as well trained I wear my eventing vest). At this point he is so well mannered that we could occasionally do some of this work in his halter. This is very unusual. We “played” with the beginning of the piaffe. Some days we would step up to the wall ,do two diagonal pairs , have a treat and leave the arena. Some days we would do it several times and play with the ball or free lunge. There is never any pressure. For quite some time Elton clearly keyed off my feet. If I piaffed with my feet he got the idea .Very light taps of the whip gave him the timing and idea to move from foot to foot. He is now clearly showing a lifting of his neck and shoulders and a lowering of his croup while showing a diagonal step or two without stress.
Today, Labor Day I have re-commenced his under saddle work . After a five minutes lunging with short side reins I rode him and he easily accomplished his trot tour staying steadily in the bridle and had no difficulties with his counter- canters across the short end of the in-door arena. He has admittedly gained a bit of weight from our lush pastures and less work but seems happy and is clearly re-freshed for his change of routine. We are looking forward to the falls fresh weather and fine foliage!