I have not ridden Rocky in almost a month, so I decided to start back with an easy Sunday morning ride. No learning new patterns or intense physical challenges. Just a horse and his girl puttering around the ranch.
I forgot that Rocky has not been Out since our last ride. He gallops around his pen regularly before meals, and pushes Rociada around when she is being saucy (and she loves it!), but he has not been out in the arena.
I saddled him at liberty, as I have done the past six times or so, and then haltered him to walk around the ranch for our warm up. Also this allowed me to look for new Scary Things before I got into the saddle. We found a full hay net so to blow his mind, I encouraged him to have a snack, and I hung with him for 15 or 20 minutes. He had left his morning hay without protest to be with me, so how fun to find more hay and enjoy it!
But when the time came to ride, he felt odd. Not lame or resistant. He actually had a more forward walk than usual, going down the hill. But something was different.
To focus him, I asked for either a leg yield or a side pass (I can’t remember which is which, but anyway, it was a sideways-and-forward step) as we went along, so we flowed from the left edge of the track to the right and back again as we moved along. He liked that. But I still felt something.
I thought back to the Parelli Performance Summit. Linda Parelli taught a session about warming up. She said that when your horse is calm, connected, and responsive at walk, trot, and canter, he is warmed up — and I caught my breath, because I had only warmed up Rocky by walking around. I asked him aloud, “Are you calm? Connected? Responsive?”
Nope. He was working hard to contain himself lest his exuberance unseat me.
I rode him up to the arena and leapt off so I could play with him and trot and canter from the ground. When I brought out the 22-foot line, he gave me that “you finally heard me, thanks!” look, and off we went with various patterns.
After that he had a great time practicing traveling circles with changes of direction and transitions among all three gaits in both directions. And when he was truly warm, he blew out and all of his muscles were relaxed. And he was — say it with me now — calm, connected, and responsive.
I climbed up bareback just to get the feel of it (he is as Teflon nonstick coated as ever) and we puttered around the arena for a short while before ending the session with a nice roll in the sand and cookies at liberty.