Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Week 7

 Part 8 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison. 
"Good dressage is like grass growing. You don't see anything happening, but over time it becomes more beautiful."  -Walter Zettl
My Saturday morning started at 4:30am this week- that's the one thing I don't miss about horse shows. By the time I photographed this week's session for Thewifedoesntknow, trainer Carole Davison had already been to a dressage show and back; she trailered, coached, and took care of all those important little details, from pep talks to girth checks. Her students both had very successful outings. My friend Kris (pictured, above with Carole) rode her mare Sunny, a BLM Mustang and Helping Hearts Equine Rescue graduate, in their very first dressage show, and came home with ribbons and excellent test scores.
After the show and a few lessons, I met them back at the farm, and Carole tacked up Thewifedoesntknow, also known as Ally-Gator, for their ride. As I watched the ride, the above Walter Zettl quote about grass growing came to mind. The mare's mental and physical development is steady and consistent, but never rushed. With each photo session, I see new muscling, new confidence, and new skills.
Ally's overall appearance is broader and more balanced than when she began her new career as a hunter. From conditioning work and the "long and low" exercises, her neck has more shape to it. Her hind end is powerful, and her pectoral muscles have spread, giving her a rounder look.
Transitions within the gaits are key to suppling a horse and increasing fluidity of the stride. Carole recently began working on alternately shortening and lengthening Ally's trot, and I saw the results in a freer shoulder and a more elastic stride. The transition work also improved Ally's reaction time to cues.
Ally has always had a nice canter and good natural cadence, and it improves each time I see her. As she builds strength, sometimes her left lead is best and sometimes the right lead is best. Carole said that this week, she asked Ally for her first flying lead changes, and they were perfect. 
 Ally works well alone, and is also cheerful and relaxed when she shares the ring with other horses. She seemed to enjoy the company of Carole's daughter Liz and her mount, Suzie (pictured above).
 In addition to circles and serpentines, Carole recently introduced a course of ground poles to Ally's schooling. In the beginning of their training, they walked them. In later weeks, they trotted them. Now, Ally has begun cantering them. She is enthusiastic and balanced when she does her work over the course, and I really liked how she coiled her hind end and rounded over the poles. She did not scramble over them, like some green horses do.
 At the end of the ride, Carole did her usual cooldown at the trot, but with an added element. Ally was invited to stretch her neck, but then Carole gave her more and more rein until she was riding her on the buckle. The exercise taught relaxation and self-carriage. Ally carried herself for a few strides. When she lost her balance, she sped up. 
After Ally's ride was complete, she stood politely while Carole set up a course of jumps for her daughter Liz and her Thoroughbred, Suzie. Ally nosed the poles and enjoyed exploring the jumps.
 Pictured above is Carole's daughter, Liz, and Carole's mare, Suzie. With consistent, careful training on the flat, Ally-Gator gathers the strength and training needed to do work over fences like Suzie.       

-Sarah Andrew 

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