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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The keys to solid warm-up = good ride even in a heat wave!

I haven't been real consistent about riding or updating the blog lately! We lost Donnie's grandmother at 94 years old a couple weeks ago. She had cancer, but we were able to be by her side until the very end. It was important family time, so I hope Gram understood :)

Last night I went to the barn. When I left the city it was 78 degrees with a nice cool breeze coming off the lake. I had actually worked from home and was able to have the windows open all day and stay very comfortable. I talked to friends in the burbs all complaining about it being too hot... I like to be cold, so I was blown away that my friends thought it was too hot and I thought it was perfect. I am not going to lie, but I got excited that perhaps that meant my body would deal with heat a bit better... Well, then I arrived at the barn, and was hit with 90 degrees and understood why everyone was saying it was hot out! I walked up to Gram, and she was sweating in her stall. I took her into the aisle and let her enjoy the fan made breeze.

I tacked her up and then proceeded to the indoor. I have found the key to our perfect warm up. I start, as I have since she came to Chicago, to just walk her on the buckle for the first 5 minutes or so. It gives us both the chance to relax into work. I normally wait for her to make her big sigh. Then I start stretchy trot, to serpentine's, and then into canter in each direction. This whole process puts us about 15 minutes from the moment we stepped into the arena. Then we walk again, but instead of on the buckle, it is more of an extended walk. Then I have been asking for collected walk, back to extended, just to get her used to me shortening and lengthening the reins in the walk. Next is is all about transitions; walk/halt, halt/trot/, trot/walk, walk/trot, trot/halt, halt/canter, canter/trot, trot/canter, canter/walk, walk/canter... you get the idea. Well, by this point she is drenched in sweat and so am I. We walk for a bit to catch our breath. I ask her for some lateral work in the walk, then ask for trot and ask for lateral work again. We work on her self carriage. Although her trot has gotten good, and the canter has gotten better, she still struggles with staying "UP" in the canter. Big horse, lots of body, hard work to keep the jump. The transitions are helping though. Now just the slightest move of my pelvis and she is ready to walk, and if my leg isn't there, she walks. :) A good problem to have!

Once we get a few really stellar moves, I normally forget to stretchy trot and go into walk (oops!). Then when the big mare thinks she is done, I normally remember that I haven't done stretching work, and pick her back up just to allow her to stretch in both directions, then we start our for real cool down, instead of the just kidding one!

I gave her a bath, and the cool water felt good for me too! Then I put her to bed and spent the drive home thinking about the progress and the keys to success. It is a formula for both the horse and rider. For me and Rushonne it was in the form of cantering right away, then coming back to trot work... with Willy it was keeping him alert and excited. For Gram it is about easing her into a relaxed frame. the warm up is probably more for me, but I think that when you can communicate with the horse in a way that is acceptable to both, the better you are set up for the ride. If I get one determined to work on something, lots of times it turns into a fight in warm up. If I just the warm up happen, we are both ready to work even if it is in the middle of a heat wave!

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