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Firn's Blog post # 9
Horses Just Wanna Have Fun
The horses and I have at last escaped the purgatory of forced rest and we have fervently gone back to work, especially Arwen. If we're going to survive our first graded event this year, we've got some work to do. Not so much in terms of training her mind - she is pretty much ready - but her body.
You see, Arwen is that most effortless of horses, the easy keeper in steady work. For ten months of the year, she's fit, muscled, and lean; and all she eats is grass and about a thimbleful of concentrates just so that she doesn't look miserable while everyone else eats. Seriously, she doesn't even need half a pound a day; feed her more than that and the daft animal blows up like a balloon. And then she gets two months off and in a matter of weeks my lean mean machine turns into a barrel with legs. Except barrels don't wobble when they walk around.
I may be exaggerating somewhat - I mean, you can still feel ribs; if I was to score her on the 0-5 BHS system, she'd be about a 3.5 - but she looks like a show pony, not an eventer. She is also not the only one. My BMI may still be telling me that I am probably starving to death (petite person problems...) but if I tried to stay in two-point position for more than two minutes I would probably fall off. I have been riding, but mostly schooling babies, which just doesn't use the same set of muscles, except once in a while when you use every muscle you have in a desperate bid to stay on top.
In that case, I decided we would start with some gentle dressage to prevent either of us dying. I thought about putting her Kimberwick on just in case, but figured that we were in the arena and Arwen isn't usually an idiot after resting, so I just used the French link snaffle, got on and set to work.
I had forgotten how much fun she is. Some of the other horses I ride are further along in their training - she's only around second level dressage - but not one of them has been schooled this far by me personally. She's tuned in to all of my little quirks and peculiarities, and I'm tuned in to all of hers; she moves softly and flowingly forward, planting each hoof with purpose, one ear pointed forward on the job and the other pointed back at me. And she loves it with a quiet joy that doesn't need any antics to express; she expresses her happiness in the shining obedience to my aids. I may still be a young rider floundering around on the poor creature's back, but there is no denying that Arwen loves her job and takes enormous pleasure in doing it well, a fact for which I take little credit. If she didn't have the work ethic she does, no amount of my attempts at good horsemanship would ever make her love work so much.
She was having fun, and because I was relaxed and having fun too, she was amazing. Her back was swinging - the feeling was similar to lying on a gently bouncing trampoline - as she carried me effortlessly forward with long supple strides, steady in my hand, yielding instantly to my aids. It was as if she hadn't had a day off; we had shoulder-in, walk-canter transitions, trot-halt transitions, even the leg-yields and turns on the haunches that she usually hates. It reminded me again that in dressage it all goes back to relaxation. In my experience, tension is inevitable sometimes when a horse tries to figure out what you want and gets worried about it, but only when the horse and rider are both relaxed do they perform to the very best of their ability.
Turns out that horses just wanna have fun. Let's have fun, and let us shine.
What do you and your horse love to do best? How do you help him to relax and enjoy his work?