Friday, September 3, 2010

Tweaking the CTR Training

I was going to write a blog about cancer today and where I am at with it. But that just did not feel very inspiring! Instead, I will update you on the ups and downs of training a horse for Competitive Trail Riding and what John and I are currently working on.

The first ride, Leverett in Massachusetts in May, was a blast. John loved it but he was very fast. Leverett is a good first ride because the trails are not too bad. There was a lot of dirt road and moderate hills. I rode him in his driving bit, a twisted Dr. Bristol. But he was very strong and ended up with minor bit rubs around the corners of his mouth and we lost half a point. We lost the other half point because he only pulsed down to 46 (he is supposed to pulse down to 44). Our score was 99 out of 100.

The second ride was at Green Mountain Horse Association in Vermont in June. The ride covered a lot of mountainous terrain. John was still very strong and as we went careening down one mountainside, him with the bit between his teeth, I decided we still had control problems. I had put a gentler bit in his mouth, a slow twist Dee ring snaffle and he took full advantage of that. He scored a 97 out of 100 on that ride, losing 1 1/2 points for not pulsing down (this time he was at a 50 as he got very distracted watching horses coming in along the dirt road) and 1 1/2 points for change in gait from the vet ins. John thinks the vet ins are in-hand classes and he was absolutely awful at the vet in at GMHA. It was in the pavilion and he bucked, snorted, cantered and put on quite a show. At a vet in that is a very bad thing.

After GMHA I took John back to the ring and worked on a lot of transitions, maintaining the same rhythm in the trot and really getting him on the aids and listening to me. While I had a lot of fun at GMHA there were a couple of moments where I was thoroughly unimpressed with his behaivor and I knew those were training lapses and ultimately my fault.

Our third ride was sponsored by NEATO and was held in Rhode Island in August. This was the first ride we went to that did not have stalls so John spent the night in an electric fence paddock. In the past he has been known to let himself out of electric fence by taking the handle we use to open the fence in his mouth, lifting it off the connector, slowly backing up and then gently putting it on the ground. This naughty behaivor seems to be in the past though! I have attached a picture of him camping in Rhode Island. We got our worst score to date at this ride (94.5) but early in the ride, I decided to use this ride as a training ride and rode the last twenty miles with that mindset. I put the driving bit back in and added a martingale. And I spent most of the ride walking and trotting. I did let him canter a bit towards the end because after twenty miles of walk and trot he was getting testy. This proved to be fatal on the pulse down (a 56!!) His pulse at the hold halfway through was a 42 though, so I know that he can pulse down, I just have to find the right combination of trot and canter and improve my timing! The NEATO ride was great for many things though - he listened to me and did not grab the bit and go out of control at all. He let another horse lead (something he had not liked to do on the other rides) and he let horses pass us without trying to race them. I was really excited about all of those accomplishments! Our vet in and vet out behaivor still need work.

What are we working on before our next 25 mile Competitive Trail Ride? We are still schooling transitions and working on control. We have made a lot of progress but I know that canter is his favorite gait and he loves to go as fast as he can. And I have indulged that tendency more often than not, and now I have to fix that! We are also working on maintaining a steady trot over long distances. I want to practice vet ins and our major goal is to pulse down at the end of a ride to 44!

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