Thursday, March 31, 2011

If There's a Rocket Tie Me to It

An exuberant, back-cracker of a jump at a schooling combined test in Nashville.
Riding a bucking Eddie over a 3-foot oxer isn't my idea of an enjoyable round!

It's not often that I get to title an eventing entry on here after the name of a Snow Patrol song, but when I do get that gosh, you better believe that's what I'm gonna do! Eventing and Snow Patrol? Life is sweet.

This time of year, my trusty little cow pony is shaggy, rusty, creaky, and spoiled (ruined after a 3-month stretch of nothing but eating/sleeping, eating/sleeping, eating/sleeping, etc.). As I start to get the wheels turning again, I've been working on my fitness routine, Eddie's routine (although his days of handwalking the hills are over, as he hates it, but I doggedly continue on in pursuit of my own well-conditioned backside), and I'm starting to put him back into regular flatwork to get him in shape for our dressage and jumping schools. Last summer, after my jump trainer saw Eddie display excessive obnoxiousness and an annoying amount of extra energy, she asked if I ever work him on the lunge line to warm him up before I ride. I don't, typically, and I'm not a big lunger at the best of times. I would rather put boring hours of flatwork in undersaddle, but I have recently reconsidered the concept of starting Eddie out this spring on the lunge line. The main reason I've decided to do this is because I can work him on the flat without the added distraction of me contributing to the fiasco from his back. But, I (admittedly) have also considered this because he is just really rambunctious right now. Those of you who know Eddie know that he is mild-mannered, patient, staid, and almost unemotional a lot of the time. However, when it's just me and Eddie hanging around, he can be silly, bratty, cheeky, and loves to dig at me to see how far he can push before I get "really mad." So, in order to avoid the springtime rocket launch, I'm going to work him on the lunge line for the next few weeks until he is more seasoned, pliable, and in nice working condition. Hopefully, by then, I will be in good working condition as well, so that I won't be bouncing around on his back and getting in the way of all his amazing progress. 

Like any good academic, when I start something new or undertake a change in routine, I prefer to validate my reasoning and purpose by going to the bookshelf and pulling down a tome of wise words, written by someone intelligent, experienced, and infinitely more talented than myself in order to gain knowledge on whether or not I have all my ducks in a row. Today, I did just that by going to my dusty old hardback version of The USCTA Book of Eventing: The official handbook of the United States Combined Training Association (2nd Edition). I love this book and have had it since I was in high school. I have underlined, highlighted, and marked up many sections of this book.....although I have yet to need the chapter "Conditioning for the Upper Levels" (by the one-and-only James Wofford). I have, though, found use for Chapter 8: "Bringing the Horse Back to Work After a Rest" by Karen Stives. 

In this chapter, Ms. Stives gives a lot of great insight into the use of the lunge line in the early stages of a horse's return to competition form. This fits perfectly with my current regimen, as she says "Lunge work can be alternated with hacking. I might lunge one day and hack the next" (p. 159). Her next paragraph mirrors my predicament much of the time, and helps me make a better plan, when she writes, "[Silent Knight] delights in trotting faster and faster, ignoring me entirely. He also delights in dropping his back and when I pull on the lunge line in an unsophisticated effort to re-establish some semblance of control and rhythm, he bends his neck and swings his haunches to the outside" (p. 159). So, she wisely encourages one to "use side reins of equal length to help keep him straight and to prevent him from falling on his nose" (p. 159-60). I have worked Eddie on the lunge with side reins some in the past, but I always worry about working him too much on the lunge with artificial aids as I don't want him to get used to "looking" correct, as opposed to "going" correctly. I think that were I to watch him more (from the ground) I might be able to understand better how he moves, what works/doesn't work, and make him more comfortable and flexible without me interfering from the saddle. I am looking forward to some lunge work so I can watch him and learn...which is exactly the same benefit that Karen mentions when she says, "I like to start the horses on the lunge because I can watch them at work, observe the way they move, and spot any problems" (p. 160). So, for the next 2 or 3 weeks, I will alternate 20 minutes of hacking one day, with 20 minutes of lunging the next day, and we shall see what we have at the end of April. 

Next up: "The Art of Galloping" and "Interval Training" with Bruce Davidson. Then again.....maybe I'll just worry about Eddie and the lunge line, for now!

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