Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Coming Together

Mercy and I are finally starting to click. As you should know by now, loping wasn't coming easy for either of us. Mercy was rushed and nervous, while I, knowing her bucking history, want to take things slow so I have a little more control of most situations. Over the past two weeks I have hauled out to a friend's arena to conquer our loping issues. I didn't expect perfection. I just want a nice, easy-going, controlled, loose reined lope. Preferably on the correct lead.

After pondering many of Mugwump's ideas on starting colts, I felt more prepared to deal with Mercy. And myself. I had skipped over the initial walk/trot/canter on a loose rein, and without steering; letting the horse get comfortable carrying and balancing you without asking much of him/her for the first ride. Knowing Mercy was a bucker, I felt more at ease at a walk or trot. Plus I didn't have a round pen or arena. Yeah, I had an enclosed pasture, but with her tripping tendencies and random trees and poles (from the pole barn) I did not feel safe just hanging on.

Well, last Thursday I had had enough with excuses. I needed to lope Mercy. My friend Addi stopped by my house with her trailer and we loaded Mercy up. This was only her second time in a new trailer with a horse she had only met a time or two. I was surprised when she jumped in and remained settled. Neat! When we got to the arena, we tacked up and headed in. We spent a lot of time working on circles and bending, as well as yielding her shoulder and ribs.

When it was time to lope, Addi moved her horse into the middle of the arena so I could use as much space as was necessary. When I asked Mercy for her right lead (her worst) she picked it up immediately! Of course it was at a million miles an hour. I took hold of the reins and released the pressure when she slowed down to a nice lope. I wasn't prepared to let her blast off loose reined in this arena. The rails are 10" rusty steel beams and it only takes one time hitting those with your knee before you know how to avoid them! *blush*

We loped many laps until she offered to trot, at which point I encouraged her to keep going. We did a few more laps and when I asked her to stop, it took only one stride to do so. Sweet! Of course she wasn't breathing hard at all, but I, however, had been holding my breath (dang it!!!), so I had to air up. After watching Addi work with her horse, I jumped back on the rail and asked Mercy for a lope to the left. She got that one immediately and slowed to a nice lope much quicker than going to the right. At that point I worked on having her pick up her shoulder, as it was leaning in so much I thought we would fall over. She caught on quickly and it only took a little rein pressure to keep her up when I asked. After we stopped, we called it a day and headed home.

Then, on Tuesday, I loaded both Mercy and Starlett up to head back out to the arena. This was another gigantic achievement for us. This was the first time I have ever loaded both horses up and hauled them out by myself! And we had no issues what so ever! Tee hee. When I got there, my friend Kay took Star and worked her while I rode Mercy. We did the exact same routine as the time before. It took a few tries for Mercy to get the right lead, but once she got it, she got it.

After such a good couple of rides at the arena, I decided yesterday was the day to try our routine at home. I saddled up both horses, Mercy in her reining saddle and Star in her English saddle, and headed to the barn. I tied Star up so she could 'work it out' while I rode Mercy. I could tell Mercy was really responsive right when I got on because she was super sensitive to my leg, bending right around with very little pressure. She was following her nose, finally!

I started out just walking in the circle I decided I wanted to follow for the whole workout. Once we got a few hoof marks in the ground to designate my circle, we picked up a trot. She moved out quite quickly, which I didn't discourage. I blocked her only when she tried to move up into a lope. We weren't ready and that's not what I had asked for. We trotted this circle for a good 25 minutes before she 'asked' to slow down. I sped her up, then asked her to slow to a nice jog, in which she offered collection. That's where we stopped and aired up. Once I switched direction on my circle, she not once tried to lope, only trotted out. Good deal.

I switched directions again and asked for a lope (while most likely holding my breath... rgggh) to the right. She missed the first lead so we came back to the walk and tried again. I used a little more leg to move her hips over and once I asked her to lope, she got it. I let her lope out as fast as she wanted to, I just sat deep in the saddle and steered her back on course with our circle if she strayed. After a few laps, we were on a completely loose rein and she was loping like a not so green horse. We broke to a trot and I asked her again to lope off. This time she got it. It was finally coming together.

When we switched to the left, she loped off on the correct lead. She needed a little more direction to keep her on our circle, but she kept a nice rhythm and speed the entire time. When I asked her to stop she planted her butt and I jumped off and loosened her cinch. What a thrill! We were finally understanding each other. That was the best ride I have EVER had on Mercy since I have owned her. I tried to stay off her face and out of her way as much as I could, and she seemed to understand what my cues meant. I can't wait to put it to use at our gaming shows this year. And hey, maybe we will make a reining show this year, lol!

(btw, Star had calmed down by the time we got back to her. For a crazy, old, stallion mare, she did great tied up while I rode. I need to do that more often!)


Paint Girl said...

I always forget to breathe when I lope! I hate that! And the funny thing is, my trainer would always know I wasn't breathing! How can they tell? LOL!
Sounds like you and Mercy are figuring the lope out! Yeah! I am also working Brandy at the lope and I am not worrying about collection etc, I just want her to feel comfortable at the lope. She does better on a loose rein. She gets to hurried when I keep too much contact on her mouth. It's all a learning process! We will get it done, though!
Good for Star! Fritzy would have dug a hole to China, if she had to stand there for more than 5 minutes!

Shirley said...

Sounds like you had a real good lesson plan going. Gotta love it when they finally figure things out!