As I’ve mentioned many times before, when it comes to Alfie and our lessons, Alfie’s needs, feelings, and fears are all taken into consideration before whatever I would like to learn or accomplish with him. Many might disagree with my approach and that’s ok. My goal with Alfie is to enjoy our riding time together by doing exercises that will help keep him fit, strong and healthy. Our bond is incredibly strong because of these lessons and for that I’m beyond grateful for.
So, because of my approach with him, he dictates most of our lessons. Some days he’s stiff and a bit achy so we don’t do much trot. Other days, he’s bored with walking and wants to move so we do. Today was a moving day lol.
Our lessons are about 45 min long, and on most days in the winter, a warmup for him could take anywhere from 20-40 min, depending on the temperature and humidity level. Today was a beautiful day, the sun was out and it was in the upper 40s, so Alfie was warmed up in about 20 min. We worked on circles and an exercise called the box. The box is a great tool to have in your arsenal for when your horse doesn’t want to bend. Picture a box, your horse is walking the shape of the box. So there are straight lines, and corner turns. The corner turns are the hard part of the exercise – although sometimes Alfie has issues walking in a straight line – he sometimes walks like a drunken sailor 😂.
The corner turns aren’t just round turns, there’s a pause and the back end of the horse controls the actual turn. Alfie is good at these in one direction and has gotten much better in his stiffer direction. But the exercise is a hard one because the movements have to be controlled. Sometimes Alfie likes to ignore my cues and he turns the box into a wonky circle lol.
After he is warmed up and his back end is loose, it’s time to trot. Just like last weekend, Alfie is rounding at the trot, the sensation of us floating and gliding is there, it really blows my mind how different it feels than before, when he wasn’t using his core and back end to lift himself. He was able to hold himself up longer this time and we trotted in good form just about the entire straight sides of the arena. Even trotting on the turns is getting a little easier for him with his new found strength and control.
Poles. We’ve got poles. The poles are used in jumps as well as ground exercises – horses either walk, trot or canter over them. It takes strength, balance and forward momentum to step over them without having the horses feet hit the pole while going over it. Because of Alfie’s tendon and feet issues, about the only thing we normally do is walk over the poles. Today, every time we trotted, Alfie headed for the poles. So I made a deal with him, if we got through the rest of our lesson with no complaints from the peanut gallery, our last trot of the day would be over a pole. As if he was a child who understood, Alfie focused on the rest of our lesson and did very well. As promised I squeezed him into a trot and he saw that I steered him towards one of the poles and he trotted nicely over it. When we stopped after that, Alfie nodded his head in agreement when my trainer and I told him he was the best boy ever. He was so happy and proud of himself.😊
Listening to your horse and understanding what they are trying to tell you isn’t easy. It’s taken me 4 1/2 years to somewhat understand Alfie. I admit, it’s hard for me at times to distinguish whether his sometimes rude opinions are because something is actually bothering him or if he’s just trying to “play me” into coddling him. I’m working on that distinction. It’s not easy.
Horses can’t tell you what is wrong, or what’s bothering them, or if they are tired, or have a headache or if they would prefer to just be alone eating hay in their stall. Life would be so much easier if they could just tell us instead of us humans literally playing a guessing game until we happen to hit upon it. Today, Alfie told me in his own way, he felt good and strong and wanted to trot over the pole. And I listened to him. Score 1 for the human.❤️🐴