Yikes, it's been almost a month since I posted anything here! Well, it's really all good. Everything is chugging along. Rugby is continuing to do well with his training. We have our challenging moments but I work through it to get to the good stuff and we have been working at the walk under saddle with no resistance. I am so ready to trot again that I've snuck in a short trot stretch here and there towards the end of each ride. I'm trying to get together with Tony for a progress report and to get some more input for what to work on at the trot.
I am a firm believer in "things happen for a reason - we may not know the reason at the time but as with everything else time reveals all". I wasn't happy to have gotten dumped off Rugby the way I did, when I did but it sent me in search of another answer than what had worked before and forced me re-evaluate my purpose. When I put myself on Rugby's schedule and let the training reflect his needs, not necessarily my wants, it has just flowed. My method now is to always begin with lunging and groundwork. As we progress through the session I evaluate Rugby's mood, willingness to comply with my cues and his attention span. I have become good at "reading" his attitude and when I know the time is right to go under saddle, then I mount up. Sometimes the lunging beforehand will only need to be 20-30 minutes, sometimes almost an hour and occasionally we never go beyond just lunging but we've been riding almost regularly now.
A few weeks ago, circumstances forced me out of my "comfort bubble" in the little riding ring behind the barn and I had to go out into the big polo arena to work with him. There were all sorts of stimuli for him to be reactive to - the tractor grading the far end of the arena, horses coming in and out of turn-out and a teenage boy practicing his roping throws while riding his little Quarter Horse. And Rugby reacted, to the point where I figured I'd just forget about riding and just try to get something positive out of him in the groundwork. He was tearing around on the lunge, tossing in a few hump back bucks, and generally not paying attention well. When he ran, I asked him for a little more, then asked him to stop, disengage and then sent him in the other direction. I kept sending, then changing direction to get him thinking and it worked! We progressed to softer, calmer work as the edge came off and ended up with flexing and moving his haunches and shoulders around and backing up as some more riders came in for their lesson. I then walked Rugby over to where the mounting block was and let him hang out and watch the other horses starting to warm up. At this point he was so focused and settled that I changed my mind, we'd give riding a try. I bridled him, mounted up and rode amidst the lesson. Rugby was happy to calmly work with the other horses and we had a great ride!
I am loving this big horse more and more. Dare I say - he's cuddlier than even Monty was. He will even come over to the feed door opening in his stall wall and give a horsey smooch if you make kissy noises while standing there. He gives me a kiss goodnight with his big wiggly snoot each time before I leave.
My children have also made great strides! One boy is now off the lunge line and rides and steers the lesson pony around at the walk and trot and his brother is in the process of leaving the lunge as well. It's thrilling and scary as hell to watch them get their independence. When they are on the lunge, at least the instructor has the last word with the pony, now it's all up to my boys what the outcome will be. It's kind of funny, because almost simultaneously they have left their training wheels behind on their bikes and are now whizzing around the yard on two wheels. They can even kick off from a standing start! To see the look of pride on a child's face when they "find their wings" continues to be one of the most joyous moments of being a parent. (Then of course, reality pokes you in the butt when same child is whining about not wanting to do their homework!)
Homework - ahh, 1st grade has brought more of that. Math every night which they whiz through and then the writing and spelling in which we deal with staying focused in order to get it done. And so far only English, I'm waiting for the Spanish homework but that's my husband's forté, LOL.
So, that's what's been goin' on these days. Below are some pictures of my boys in recent riding lessons. They are riding at the same time, each with his own instructor and in a separate round pen.
Working on the trot. I love that both boys try very hard to post with only their seat and legs, they only touch the pony's mouth when asking for a "whoa".
Working on his position. Nice straight back and good hands! A little more heels down, please!
First time riding off the lunge line. My son and his favorite lesson pony being watched by "The Master". Go kid, go!
My son's boot heels have finally grown past the flap of the saddle. Now he has to learn that when he squeezes the pony he doesn't have to press through the saddle flaps to get a response!