I lunged Cruizer for about 10 minutes before getting on, just to loosen his legs up and get some bucking out. He had been in his stall since 3pm the day before (he got his legs washed and a haircut for the clinic), but he still didn't really want to run and play at all. Once I was on, we did walk/jog/posting trot/lope both directions and did one simple lead change each direction and then just walked until the clinician was ready to start. Western riding was with a western all around trainer from around here named Seth Davis. Fortunately there were only three people in my group, which was made up of myself, my little sister, and my best friend. My sister's horse was chosen to go first because she has a lead change and experience in the more advanced western classes, while Cruizer is completely green and new to this, and Kelsey's horse doesn't have flying changes yet.
We all started with the same exercise, which was going into a nice medium trot and then working on pushing the horse laterally across the pen, really getting them to use their body and bend. Cruizer was pretty confused at first. I taught him leg yields the first winter I had him, but we don't work them often. Once he started getting it at the trot, we moved up into the canter. He was much better tracking to the left than to the right. We did a few simple changes across the middle which doing a canter leg yield, and then got started on the pattern. The pattern included a jog over a pole to start, and had three lead changes followed by a stop (from the canter) and back.
After we each did the pattern twice, Seth had me pick up on the canter exercise again and we asked for a right lead to left lead flying change. I asked nicely at first, but Cruizer wasn't getting it. I gave him one kick with my right leg and he bucked..and switched the lead! Flying changes generally don't start pretty, so I wasn't concerned. It's hard for them to figure out how to lift their body at first without bucking. I was super happy that he did the lead change, and also kind of surprised. I didn't think we were going to get one on the first day we really started building up to them. Kelsey also got a flying change out of her horse.
From there we rode over to the indoor arena to do trail. Our indoor is big, but having a full trail course in there made for some very sharp turns (particularly on a 17 hand Cruizer horse). We started working just one obstacle at a time at the jog. Cruizer, for some reason, got very upset about doing the gate, which was weird. He has always been perfect for the gate, so he really should not have been scared of that. The gate is the only part of trail class that he has experience with! The pattern included a ton of jog overs, a back through an L shaped chute, a jog into a box then stop in the box and pivot, and several lope overs. The lope over box was the hardest element to get down. He had some trouble figuring out the spacing and how to turn sharp enough to make the box. He picked up on it really well, all in all. He was definitely confused and protesting at some points, but considering he went from 0 to 60 in one session, I was very happy with him. The extent of his pole experience is jogging or loping over a single pole maybe 3 times in his life. The pattern started out with an L shaped set of four boxes to jog through, which also took him awhile to figure out the spacing and where to put his feet. Once we put all of the elements together, he did the whole pattern fairly well (for it being his first trail course) and gave in and did the gate.
It was a very long and exhausting day, and he's getting today off. I definitely will keep going with our new tools we have in Cruizer's toolbox to keep improving these two events as well as his all around skills. I had a blast yesterday and I could tell he did too. He got to graze for 20 minutes after we were done and got carrots chopped up into his dinner. I'm sure he slept good last night, I've never worked him that hard before.
Also, I was EXTREMELY happy that his bare feet held up to the challenge. He was sound and comfortable for the entire 3 hours.
Today Josh cleaned up Cruizer's feet again and took the rest of the damaged hoof off of his left front (the rest of it chipped off a few days ago and looked ugly). We should have smooth sailing now with his feet. His supplement taste tests also arrived today, so he's going to get those on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If he eats them I will probably order both. He is definitely getting the hoof supplement.
There was also some concern about the camping trip I was planning on taking him on. Turns out the grounds are full of big rocks, and the barn owner wasn't sure his feet would be up to that challenge. I talked to Josh about it today quite a bit, and he gave Cruizer the all clear to go camping. He said his feet are looking really good and since we are doing hoof hardener on him he should be more than ready for the trail ride. Obviously, I have to use common sense and if we hit a spot that's really rocky, I will have to try and get around it, which I would have done anyway.