AQHA Novice Championships are in full swing this weekend and I am even more pleased with my decision not to attend this year. In the last two weeks Grace and I have had some amazing lessons with Sarah, building on the exercises that we picked up at the last horse show. Grace’s lope is now like nothing I’ve ever ridden before. I did not believe that she was capable of the quality of gait that she is giving me now. It needs time to get consistent, but I am just in awe of how this horse at 15 years old continues to improve. I know that if I had pushed to make the trip down to Vegas I would have been forced to cut corners in my training in order to have Grace shut down enough to compete at that level. That is just not something I am willing to do to my best friend. I have a year to build on where we are at, this gives me time to do it my way and produce an end result that allows me to still sleep at night. Penny used to tell Sarah and I that when she stands before God He is not going to ask her how many blue ribbons she won, He is going to ask how well she cared for the horses that He provided her. I carry that thought with me each and every day.
The exercises we’ve been working on for the last few weeks work really well for Grace. The focus has been on getting her shoulder unlocked at the jog before asking for the lope. We change directions constantly which keeps her on her hind end also keeps her guessing as to what the next move is and keeps her from locking her shoulder back down. When we lope I leave her alone. The first few strides are phenomenal; slow, in the ground on her hind end with her shoulder elevated. As soon as it starts to change where I would usually micromanage it, I instead break her down to the jog and go back to the direction changes, thus getting her back on her hind end. This is where the quality of the lope has come from not only the gait but the transitions are clean. The left lead is now for the first time the better lead. In yesterday’s lesson we started doing some work at the lope. Sarah had me lope Grace diagonally across the arena, in the corner I would roll Grace back keeping her on the same lead. It took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but I was able to see how the exercise rocked Grace back onto her hind end and picked up her shoulder. Her roll backs became very efficient making me wonder where in the heck this horse was when we were barrel racing. This exercise along with work at the counter lope improved the quality of the lope and produced a relaxed quiet horse. All of this work was done in a snaffle, so I have now had the best lope to date on this horse and it was done in a snaffle. I’ll take a ride like that any day over a blue ribbon or belt buckle.