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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~


6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bareback Hacks and In-Hand Attacks!



As planned, I have spent the past week hacking out around the property at a walk, slowly and gradually introducing different footing and little hills now that Gogo's legs are strong enough to do so. To add a little flavor to the mix, I've ridden every single day bareback. Her first time out of the arena... and I'm going bareback? And... I'm not using Ace anymore?

You heard right!

What is this world coming to??

I am actually not surprised by this fact at all, but all it seems my little princess needed in order to keep four on the floor was to do something different besides ride round and round in an arena every day. Gogo is not, nor has she ever been, an indoor horse. Every year around March or so, after two or three months of indoor riding, Gogo boycotts the whole idea and pitches royal fits until we go to ride outside again. This seems to now have transferred to the outdoor too, for the time being. I think she's honestly just sick and tired of the same old boring rehab routine, and I really can't say that I blame her. I am too! I have to say though, Gogo is the only horse I've ever met that does NOT enjoy a set routine. She is better and more relaxed at shows when everything is new and fresh, gets surly if we do the same thing too many days in a row, and goes like ears-pricked gangbusters the moment I shake up her routine a little bit. I guess she is just weird.

We were both a little weary after months of rehab work. Now that we've been cleared to start gradually returning to regular work, it's time for a little fun. The plan was to start riding around the farm property a little bit every day this week, introducing different footings in five-minute increments every day. Monday was 10 minutes, Tuesday 15, Wednesday 20, etc, all the way to Saturday which is supposed to be 35. This is all at the walk, and for added fun, all bareback. For all I've needed to Ace her every ride for the last three months, I knew that once we left the arena, she'd be fine, even without tack. And I wasn't dissapointed. Gogo's has her attitude cranked up to 11, and not only has she been nonstop bright-eyed and cheerful all day long in her stall, she's also had a horrible snotty attitude in the grooming stall, demanding my attention non-stop and lording over her space like it is her kingdom. One moment, she is doe-eyed for my boss' 6 year-old boy who loves to pet her and brush her, standing perfectly still with her head low for him to kiss her nose. The next, she is lunging at passing horses while standing in the crossties, puffing herself out in all directions as if to say, "back OFF, this is MY grooming stall and MY pampering time!" She won't do this if I am standing there with her, but god forbid if I have moved away to momentarily attend to something else. Then she is dancing, snarling at the other horses, and swatting a front foot at the errant barn cat who mistakenly wandered too close. She normally loves cats, but yes, she did in fact pitch a right fit when I went from brushing her to bending over to pet the barn cat for a moment. Suddenly, I saw flying front hooves as she barged forward, ears pinned and steam shooting out her ears. My god! Take it easy your Highness! I will return to dote on you momentarily! (This is why we work on manners so very often. I have a feeling if I let her get away with things, it might turn ugly pretty quickly.)

I've written about it plenty of times before - we know she gets a wicked big ego and a 'tude when she's feeling great, so secretly I love it. When she's sweet and loving, something is wrong. When you can practically taste her hugely inflated self-opinion when you walk in the barn, all is right in the world.

Hacking out bareback has been the ridiculously fun part. It's not all been games and fun this week though. Bettina showed up early for a different lesson on Monday, and came to seek me out, saying, "I thought you might like to work on your mare some more, so I came early!" No freaking way. I need to go buy her a nice bottle of wine! She showed me a few more exercises, namely using both reins to move Gogo in a square. At the end of the square when I go to turn her, she is to do something akin to a turn on the forehand, rotating her hindquarters out to the new edge of the square. This is very difficult to do... I am having a hard time figuring out how to hold both reins and the whip so as not to confuse her! The lesson went well, and we continued to work on moving her laterally back and forth, stretching down and sideways at the same time. I still left the lesson feeling a little confused, as there is so much to absorb and my brain just doesn't work that fact. I want to strengthen and supple her on the ground as much as I safely can, so as per Bettina's instruction, I decided in addition to my bareback hacking, I would add in-hand work before riding every other day.

WELL. Wednesday wasn't really our day for in-hand stuff, even though I did my best. I really just think we're both still a little too green at this to do anything more complicated than the simplest of exercises that Bettina showed me, because Gogo pitched a right fit and bucked when I rapped her a little too hard with my whip on her haunches. I never see Bettina's horses confused, and I never see her get after them aggressively, and here I was both simultaneously confusing my horse and accidentally using my whip too much, which I am sure she percieved as an aggressive move on my part. I went back and did the most basic of lateral movements, which she is understanding well (and I am also understanding well), then did a little more regular groundwork with her on top of it. This seemed to put her head back in a good place, and I went ahead and hopped on bareback afterwards for our hack. Interestingly enough, when walking up tiny hills, her back rounded up so amazingly that it felt like I was literally sitting on top of a barrel. Her spine dissapeared underneath all that muscle! I've never felt that with her bareback before, ever. Perhaps related to the groundwork? Maybe! The next day when I hacked without the groundwork, it felt similar while going up the same tiny hill but not quite as startlingly amazing. Yesterday, when I went back to do more in-hand work, I made a serious effort to make sure I was as clear as possible, and we were both thankfully much better. There is so much to be learned - I clearly need more work with Bettina! And once again, I felt her back really LIFT and carry me up little inclines, and down them as well. She marched around the farm like there was no tomorrow, feeling very confident after actually making sense of the in-hand work we did.



We also tackled the little bridge for the first time yesterday. She didn't want to go near it at first, but when I got off and led her over it, she followed right away the first time. When I hopped back on, she proceeded to walk confidfently back and forth over it twice, as if to say, "psh, I knew it wasn't a bit deal."






It's been such a fun week. And on top of all of that, her legs are ice cold and beautiful every morning, even without wraps. That's what I like to see!

7 comments:

DressageIsToDance said...

My boy sometimes gets fed up with arena work. Having been a trail horse for 15 years, heck, I can understand his point of view.

Err, but hey, what the heck is your secret to Gogo's tail? Or is that just natural beauty? I'm jealous beyond belief! God I want Jack's tail to look like that.

sally said...

So lovely to see you and Gogo out enjoying a different scene. How brave of you to go bare back. I haven't done that in years except on a small pony (it doesn;t count as my feet nearly touched the ground)Gogo is looking beautiful

Alanna said...

Yah! Good girl Gogo.

eventer79 said...

Not that unusual, I think. I believe a LOT of horses get bored stiff by arena work and relish variety. Some just put up with it more stoically than others. Solo lets me know very quickly if I have the temerity to do, say, 5 days of dressage work in a row. He drags his little feet going, uggghhh, mommmm circles are soooo boringggg.

Stacey said...

Love the bareback pics! Looks like you guys have a really nice property to hack around on.

Ohh the Gogo tail...Klein only has a tail like that in her dreams.

sumire7 said...

This post inspired me to go for a little bareback hack around the barn today. I haven't been on bareback in a year or two and it was so hot today I didn't feel like saddling up and decided just to go for it. I had so much fun! Except that TBs have very uncomfortable withers and spines... Maybe I need to invest in a bareback pad.
Thanks and I love your blog!

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

I too, LOVE bareback riding! I've been doing it for about 2 months now..love how easy it is, too, and I like being lazy sometimes. :)
How nice that Gogo likes to shake up her routine and gets excited and not stupid about a new scenery. Laz can be sometimes overwhelmed when in a new area and act out..but we are working on it.
LOVE to hear that Gogo's legs are staying great and healthy...and how cool about Bettina. She sees something in you, for sure. :)