Yesterday I rode Chance – though our ride was interrupted by a thunder storm – and according to my new plan, today was my day to ride Zola.
I had made up my mind I was going to carry my crop and we were going all the way around the track – no excuses. I tacked Zola up and put her on the lunge. This is only to gauge her mood, and I seldom ask for more than 4 or 5 circles. I just want to see how she walks, how she goes into a trot, and most importantly, how she moves into a canter when I ask. She knows the words walk, trot, canter, and whoa, and I do not have or use a lunge whip. When I said “canter”, just like the other day, she moved smoothly into a nice relaxed hand gallop without making faces or any other “comments”.
As soon as I see how she is I ask her to go back into a trot and then whoa. I take off the halter, which is over the bridle, as I do not believe in lungeing with a bit. And then I lead her to the mounting block and get on. And so I did today. Whether it was coincidence or not, Zola headed right to where we entered the track on Sunday, walking with energy and purpose. So right from the start today was different.
When we entered the mowed area we turned left and walked along the “rail” – not too close, as both she and Chance are aware it’s the same as the hot tape that gives shocks. This went beautifully! I was happy and let Zola know it. As we came to the end of the rail we still had a ways to go to the posts that mark the turn – maybe 100 feet, I’ve never measured it. Zola thought about going left as we came to the open area, but I quickly turned her back to the mowed path and gave her a tap on the shoulder. She wasn’t thrilled to be going out there – confirming my opinion that having a fenced area for early training is a huge bonus - but I was firm and she went. Once we got around the far turn and headed down the stretch – where there is another section of rail – she really seemed to get it.
For those who don’t ride, you can really tell a lot about what a horse is thinking when you’re on their back. Anyway, the rail on the homestretch is shorter than the backstretch (not enough poles and tape) and it runs out further from the turn on that side. But Zola was a champ! She was easy to keep on the mowed area with just a few minor adjustments, and I could tell she was getting the idea of following the “path”. We went around the turn, partway down the backstretch, then I stopped her, turned her around, and we rode back up the track the wrong way – as racehorses normally do. Then stopped again and ended our ride.
I was so pleased! I praised Zola as we went along and I feel we made huge progress today. I couldn’t be happier. This is a big step forward.
I do credit the Pee Wee bit for some of this progress. She clearly doesn’t mind it, and it has made steering a lot easier.