I haven't been doing much horse related activities this past month, though I lunged Lucky several times and rode Pistachio once. Lucky has done really well the last few times I lunged her. She stretched her neck down and become round consistently, and even circled to the right without leaning and letting her shoulder drop into the circle, which is great news. Pistachio has also been doing well. Under saddle, he has been more accepting of contact, and even reached for the bit. He stayed round for more than just a split second, a huge improvement.
Recently, I went driving with Pistachio and his owner, Gretchen, at the same ranch where the Halloween Haunt event was held last year, and where the Spring Fling was held earlier this year. Before we drove, I lunged Pistachio, then harnessed him with Gretchen.
First, Gretchen drove to one of the new driving hazards obstacle. Hazards are made up of sturdy wooden poles that the driver must weave through, and consist of several elements, all of which must be performed in order. This particular one had an A, B, C, D, and E element. Each element consists of two poles: a red pole and a white. Like in eventing and jumping, the red is always on the right. The hazard was tricky at first, but after driving Pistachio at a walk through it a few times to see where every element, Gretchen was able to drive it at a trot.
In the dressage ring, Gretchen drove Pistachio in a serpentine loop. A serpentine loop, unlike the serpentines consisting of three 20 meter circles, are straight lines that snake across the arena, making a U-turn at each arena wall. Gretchen did this to slow Pistachio, who often rushes when being driven.
We also drove in the cones course. The cones course consisted of 20 pairs of cones, each labeled from 1 to 20, the order they are meant to be driven in. He rushed quite a bit during the cones course as well.
Later on, Gretchen surprised me by allowing me to drive Pistachio. I had only driven twice before that time, and had only driven a miniature horse. However, driving is not terribly difficult for someone who knows how to ride, although there is one major difference that was hard to get used to: I couldn't use inside leg to help Pistachio bend. To help me, Gretchen touched Pistachio's barrel with her whip, encouraging him to bend. He was bit fast a few times, but wasn't uncontrollable. I drove him in the dressage arena for a few minutes, playing around with the serpentine exercise I did with Lucky(the one with a few walk strides in between each change of direction). He did it pretty well, and even came round a few times.
Next, I tried the cones course. It was challenging, but fun. I didn't go through a few of them completely straight and bumped a few cones though, accidentally knocking down the white number eleven. Just before gate six, I asked him to slow down slightly. Just after six was a short(only about a stride), steep, hill leading into an indent that was several strides long. I wanted to slow him, because I knew the downhill, and the following uphill, would cause him to speed up.
I really enjoyed driving Pistachio! It was great.