Since gaming season is over (for Mercy and I at least) I have decided to focus on reining, roping, trail riding, and preparing for an upcoming performance show. I would like to take the spotted one to a really basic, beginner reining show on August 16th, but we have a few things to work out still before I want to commit to that. I know we won't have a sliding stop, but that's OK. I am more concerned about our circles. Since we have just recently just started figuring out the loping thing, it could be a worst maneuver. I haven't worked on varying our speed at the lope at all. Luckily, I am heading over to my friend's place to ride with them this evening. They rein competitively in the NRHA, so I am hoping to pick up a few more pointers before I decide whether to go to the show or not.
Mercy got worked yesterday evening. I set up a few cones in a straight line, three barrels in a very close barrel pattern, and an 'L' pole pattern. We started out weaving through the cones at a walk and then a trot, focusing on bending and shoulder/hind end control. When I was satisfied we moved onto the three barrels. I used these to practice backing in circles and in nice flowing arcs. It is also a well used obstacle in trail classes at performance shows, so the more practice the better.
By the end on that activity I thought Mercy was really paying attention to my cues, whether to give her head, shoulders, barrel, or hip. I was incredibly wrong.
At the 'L,' I tried backing her through it, one step at a time. Nope. She didn't want anything to do with that. She backed fine, but as soon as I put some leg on her to straighten her out she would speed up her backing or fling her shoulders over instead. Ugh.... I tried to straighten her out again and start over, but things got increasingly worse from there. She just has NO patience! Once she is rushed, it is very hard to get her focused again. no matter how slow my movements and cues are, she just looses it.
At some point she wouldn't calm down or stand still, so I whooped her butt into a lope from a standstill (yes, I lost control of the situation and was frustrated). It actually worked out though... this time. It got her mind off of whatever she was so worried about and it gave me time to figure out my next step. Mercy made that easy for me because her lope was wonderful! I just let her continue in a few circles and asked for a stop. And then, she stood, calm and relaxed.
After a short breather, we went to an area of my pasture that is a little less rocky. Within the next 20 minutes or so I worked on making my cues clear. Forehand turns, haunch turns, and side passing. I practices full circles and an exercise where you complete a 180*forehand turn and then follow through with another 180* turn, but on the haunches. We had it going for us really quick actually. After another short breather we headed back to the poles. This time was much different. We were able to get one movement at a time. No need to rush. And that's where we stopped for the day.
So that's where I plan to pick up this evening at the arena. Thank goodness not all of our rides are like that. On Saturday morning TrailRidinRN and I headed out on the trail. Star was doing better (my mom was too!) and it was a decently cool morning. We headed to the lake and when we got there we discovered one of those speed readers! You know, the kind that get placed on the side of the roads to tell you how fast you're going?! How'd that get there, lol!? Mercy wanted nothing to do with it (she was convinced it was going to get her, plus there was a fisherman in the bushes behind us...) so I jumped off and led her to it. It really wasn't such a big deal, silly girl. That's when it hit us that the annual bike races must be taking place soon. Uh... The bike clubs in the area get together and have a day of racing on the trails. Good thing it wasn't on that day!
We continued to the old train track taking some less traveled trails. The trees are so dry that many branches needed to by broken to pass. Of course Mercy and I were leading, so we got home covered in pine needles! The bikers had set up their course in preparation for the race, which included while plastic ribbons, chalk on the ground, and signs on the trees. Last year was the first year we had encountered this, so this time it was really no big deal. It was amusing though because Mercy felt the need to inspect every single chalk mark on the ground. We probably pasted 20+ spots where she had to 'see it!' It sure was nice to see the horses sweat a bit. They enjoy the good work out too.
As a few side notes-
The barn swallows are nesting for the second time this year. The parents sure were hot during our recent heat wave:
Mercy got her (kinda) mane braided last week to see if we could get it to lay down. She wasn't thrilled with having to stand still, but she got through it. And her neck looks thinner!: