Northwood Horsemanship Challenge: Week Two

I bet you thought I was joking about the “Head Up” on my saddle horn didn’t you? Nope. I wasn’t. And I am so glad I did it. I spent this week focusing mainly on keeping my head up and seeing how making it a habit affected my riding. After the first ride my eyes never made it back down to my saddle horn. They would get to my horse’s poll and would instantly shoot back up to avoid reprimand.

        

Monday, Limbo and I headed back in to the arena to work on moving in a circle at various speeds on line with no pull. We spent an hour in there, and I am very happy to say that it went well. There was a little pull and lack of focus at the beginning, but by the end, we were back to where we left off originally. I like having him soft enough that I don’t even really need to close my hand on his lead when we are working. Monday gave me hope that we are on the right path.

Tuesday, was a long one. We started out in the round pen, touching on on line lunging again. There was almost no pull, even when he went in to a canter. We played with transitions and changing direction for about thirty minutes and when I was happy with where he was at, I decided to work on me. I spent the next thirty minutes working on my seat, sitting the trot and working on transitions without stirrups. I felt the burn! While it was hard work I was really happy that I did it. It showed me that while I still have a way to go, I am making progress! After that we left the round pen and meandered down by the river for an hour or so.

Wednesday, my husband and I went out for a trail ride that I used to focus on keeping my horse moving at a nice, fluid, fast walk. Also, we loped a bunch through the sand wash so there was plenty of time to practice rating and adjusting the speed of the lope. When we got back, we loped a few circles in the arena. I’ve found if I can come back in from a ride, lope maybe five circles each direction and then leave the arena, I get  much better circles out of myself and my horse, than if I make “loping circles” the plan for the day.

We finished off the afternoon roping our dummy. I’m not a great roper so for the most part my horse just had to stand there and be patient. But, when I did catch it was great to work with him. We sidepassed up my rope as I coiled it. He had to let me hang off of him while I took my rope off of my dummy. And, then we side passed and moved his hind end and front end where I needed it to get me lined up for my next shot. He job went back and forth from just standing there to pretty technical stuff. And he had no problem with it. Good stuff.

Thursday, other than pulling him out to groom him I left him alone. He’s been doing great and I have plenty of hours and rides racked up so I didn’t really feel like I had to pressure him into working that day.

Friday, four of us went for a three hour trail ride across the road. I ride alone most of the time so it actually takes more focus for me to ride in large groups than if I am out by myself. Limbo got a little bit of working on front foot work, and sidepassing to get a gate. I worked on feeling how much he weighed in my hands. I liked what I felt for the most part. Again, when we got back we worked on loping circles. They’re getting prettier and prettier!

Saturday was another trail ride, again with a friend. It was only an hour long. For the most part it was a mental break but we did prowl around some new country and worked on hind end stuff just a bit.

     

Today was the day. I wanted to see if the newly formed habit of keeping my head up really made that much of a difference bareback. So I had Limbo pick me up from the fence and walked off. At first I felt all discombobulated. I felt more like I was going to fall off than I had at the end of last week. I finally figured out that putting my head up is good, but I have to be careful not to brace to keep it up. Once I put my head up AND relaxed things started flowing. I like what I saw in today’s pictures a lot better than last week’s. There’s still plenty of room for improvement but progress is being made.

So, my plan for this coming week is starting to form. I want to move from the round pen to the arena for my bareback rides. I also want to start paying a little more attention to any new braces  that I am developing.

Limbo continues to be a good sport and a pretty reasonable school horse so that’s good. I’d like to play with his connection. Eventually I’d like to find that perfect stopping point for our outside rides to keep him connected to me, instead of tune me out. Before this challenge I had spent a long time getting him physically fit enough to long trot for miles on end. While I achieved that, I think I ruined some of the mental fitness he had going for him. The good news is we still have plenty of time to play with it!

I love reading about everyone’s second week. Every story is unique and yet we are all in this together!

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