Thursday, August 25, 2011
In Which Keegan jumps with Heath Ryan
So yes, I bought another horse. A lovely Danzig grandson whose JC name is Peyton to Marvin. His USEA/USEF name is VS Pass Play and I've decided that his barn name is Keegan (after English soccer legend Kevin Keegan and also after http://www.keeganales.com/ (keeping up with the alcohol theme started with Meritage and Coleraine). So, I bought Keegan a couple of weeks ago, but left him with Kate Chadderton because Blue Hill is not just full, it is overflowing and the girls are still alternating their summer times off, so they are also shorthanded. So, having not seen him since the vet check, I blithely sign up to ride in a jumping lesson with Heath Ryan (no one said I approach this stuff sanely or systematically). I drove down yesterday and see a horse flinging itself about at the end of the lunge line. Turns out it is Keegan. Kate says, "he was a bit feisty yesterday, so we thought we'd give him a little lunge" I'm wondering what happened to the dead quiet horse I bought, but ok lunging is fine. He got a little bath and turned out and I wandered into the arena to watch some flat lessons. Very impressive. Maat was riding her lovely mare and doing all kinds of stuff that I consider generally impossible, Sally Lofting came with two students and they were doing more what I consider normal these days while getting lots of tips and exercises. The horses all improved visibly in the hour of their lessons. Heath is a very good teacher and uses a lot of short lateral work, transitioning from a few steps of shoulder in to a few steps of half pass to straight, all very correct and precise. He emphasized maintaining the activity of the gaits all the time and the horses all looked great, both when he was riding them and when he was teaching their riders how to do the same.
After watching, fetched Keegan in. Oh, goody, another pigpen. He had rolled and rolled while wet and had dirt over every bit of him. Spent a bit of time brushing and currying feeling thankful that he is another plain bay so the dirt doesn't really show. It was moderately windy and he seemed a bit fresh, so I walked him up to the top arena and then got on (yea, my jumping saddle fits him, though I will need a longer girth). There was a lot of tenseness and a fair amount of leaping sideways, though not too violent and usually triggered by something identifiable, so we took it slow. Heath and our co-lessonees Jacquelyn Dickey and her lovely mare Ke-Ke were very patient (http://www.riding-innovations.com/index.html). We started with walking over a set of poles. We then proceeded to trotting over the same poles. Leaping sideways occurred when it was not our turn and Ke-Ke hit a pole or Heath was vehement in his teaching, but during our turn, Keegan was settled and focused.
Next came the real exercise goal of the day, accuracy. We started with a single pole on the ground and Heath showed us where he wanted the front feet to go. We missed some of the time, but Keegan actually listened pretty well and we did OK. After generally sorting the single pole, we headed over to the poles. They were set in-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-twostride-bounce, so 7 efforts in all. The goal was to come to that accurate spot and then adjust as needed through the grid. Both Ke-Ke and Keegan required some whoaing through the grid to get it right, but both got better and better. We did the poles in both directions. Harder with the bounce to two-stride at the start of the line. Then, all but the first and last pole went up to cross-rails. As predicted by Heath, it was actually a bit easier to get the right distances and to know how much to push or whoa while in the line. After getting that, those five crossrails went up to verticals. And who would have thought, my totally clueless boy was quite the star. Keeping the canter around the corner was the most difficult part of the exercise. He clobbered three rails the first time through, but then was foot on the next couple of times. I pretty much couldn't quit smiling. By this time, we had been at it for 95 minutes and the leaping had diminished to a bit of a spin sideways and even that was dissipating. We finished up with a pole bounce to cross rail, 3 strides to little oxer and that was easiest of all. Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. I felt like a learned a bunch and also confirmed my choice of the next eventing partner, though Kate agreed that she might need to cut back a bit on the large amounts of grain he was getting to add some weight. Katherine Rizzo was kind enough to come and take photos so there will be pictures to follow. Watch this space.