It’s now 2015, which means that OTTB Cally turned another year older! I can’t believe she’s now 13. That seems impossible, and like she was just a gawky 5 year-old last spring. But it’s been a good few years we’ve had lately, and she’s finally starting to mature, stay (relatively) injury-free, and we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple years. Three year-end awards, this year, and a move up to 3′ is nothing to sneeze at, certainly. I’m hoping we continue bigger and better in 2015.
We certainly started the year off right–by taking a lesson with Kelley. I was really interested in seeing what she thought of Cally in the pelham, and seeing how Cally went doing a bit of jumping in it. I’d left the ridiculous curb chain really loose, on the actual curb links, to start off, and Kelly immediately laughed at it, and jury-rigged a temporary fix, hooking it once again on the lip-strap link, and putting the excess bit of chain up through the noseband, between where it buckled and the keepers, so it was out of the way and not whacking her in the face or causing irritation. That seemed to do the trick, at least for our lesson, since my pre-lesson attempt to fix it with the multi-tool pliers I had in my locker just seemed to bend the pliers, rather than the hook for the curb chain.
We did a lot of flatwork to start the lesson, just working on getting her nice and supple and stretching without using the curb rein at all. That didn’t take too long, since when not using the curb rein, it’s a really simple snaffle. We had a nice relaxed, forward trot, and the few times she tried to get hollow and hit the fairly slack curb by pulling her head up and out, it seemed to work mostly as a self-correcting aid, like a martingale, only coming into play when she did something she shouldn’t, and just served as a subtle reminder. And she didn’t overract or get all dramatic about it, just went right on back to work, correctly.
Once she was feeling good on the flat at the trot and canter, we progressed to getting that same nice round, supple feeling around a circle with two ground poles, just under 20 meters. She immediately forgot what we’d been working on, so back to the drawing board, basic simple relaxation and rhythm until she was feeling good, then straight ahead from one of the poles to a little X. She cantered right away, but my reins were a little long, so she wasn’t quite perfect. We came through again, with a bit shorter rein, and I had such a lovely, lovely half halt and downward transition back to the trot circle over the poles I about fell off in astonishment and delight. No major moves, no muss no fuss, just a polite and matter of fact. Huh.
The poles on a circle exercise was a good one for us, and something we can work on easily on our own to work on rhythm and bend. We did the circle to X a few more times, then did X to cantering the circle. Cally was a little confused by that the first time, I think mostly because she landed and was balanced and not running, and I had a half-halt that she wasn’t expecting to have to respond to, so she was a little shocked at actually having to listen and balance to turn. But on the second try, it rode much nicer, and we had a great note to end the lesson with.
I had a discussion about the pelham with Kelley during cool-out, and as much as it surprised both of us, think it’s definitely a good bit for us. She doesn’t want us using it too often though, so Cally doesn’t figure it out. So I think while it’s definitely what we were looking for, it’s not something for every day. Obviously for dressage we’re using our regular french link anyway, but even for hacking around in jump tack, I won’t use the pelham. It’s going to be reserved for jump lessons and shows, when it should be just what I need. So it was time to take it home and figure out how on Earth to make that ridiculous curb chain work for real. It’s a 10″ chain on a 5″ bit! I need to be able to shorten it on both sides, which means the one hook needed to be opened.
Upon returning home, I informed WBBF I needed his help, or at least his tools, with something. I attempted to do it myself first, with a good pair of pliers. No go. WBBF watched this, and finally understood what I was attempting to do with it (because “I need to pry open the curb hook” just left him nodding blankly!), and declared that he had just the tool for the job. He went digging through his tool box, came back to the living room with a hammer and some other thing in hand, and took my bridle from me, clarifying which bit needed prying open. He then wedged the other thingy in the curb hook, whacked it twice with the hammer, and voila! I’ve now got a curb chain I can make work for us! He really is the best! And also possibly MacGuyver.
This evening I went ahead and ordered a proper curb rein and a lip strap, so hopefully til we have our next jumping lesson, we’ll be good to go with the proper tools for the job.