Monday, January 9, 2017

ground work

Dash and I are learning to do ground work. "It's all about energy," my trainer says.

Dash works harder than she asks: he canters when she asks for a trot. He does this four, five times. She doesn't try to stop him, but she changes her posture - lets her arms hang at her side, stands relaxed, calm. He gets tired eventually, and trots. She praises him. The next time she asks for a trot, it takes him only one round at a canter before he slows. 

His canter is fast. I know, that should be obvious since he's an old racehorse. This was one of those things I knew before I ever rode him, but I didn't really have a context for that knowledge; I couldn't picture just how fast his "fast" would be. The other day, he and I cantered around in the round pen for the first time and I finally got a feel for his speed. I've ridden a gallop before - speed on a horse is not new to me - but Dash's canter felt like I'd straddled a Ferrari.

Watching M do ground work with Dash, I got to see how very long his strides are at every gait. I commented on it, and M reminded me that -duh, he's a thoroughbred. I've been on a lot of different breeds of horses before, and I've seen huge differences between individual horses, but looking back, they all seem slow in comparison. Dash is the first OTTB (off-track thoroughbred) I have ridden, and the difference is huge. It's like going from a moped to a Maserati... after spending a lifetime thinking that mopeds were maybe a bit too fast sometimes.

I'm not sure I shouldn't be switching out my riding helmet for a motorcycle helmet.

Even his trot is fast and long; he extends his forelegs with a natural and commanding step. M wants to do dressage with him because he has such wonderful extension, but he doesn't like the dressage saddle. Dash prefers his western saddle, heavy beast that it is. I keep feeling like I should replace it with a lighter saddle, but I'm not sure whether he'd appreciate the gesture. 

Starting ground work now is going 'back to the drawing board,' after I skipped the sketch and went straight to execution in the beginning. Not in a bad way, though.

I haven't done ground work in a round pen since I was a teenager, working with my first horse (a Polish Arabian called Goldy). Dash hasn't worked in a round pen at all, except those couple of rounds of cantering the other day. It's an entry level tool for working with horses, but we managed to skip that until now.

There's an metaphor to be pointed out here... Something about the parallels between doing ground work with Dash and the 'ground work' I've been doing with my therapist, who's bringing my thoughts back to who I was before - eveything - and figuring out how to be who I want to be now... But all this ground work has me tired of heavy introspection, so I'll just say: it's fun, learning with Dash. He's a sweety.