I hate hacking at this time of year. It`s depressing to realise that the path you cantered along last week is now a bog and the horses haven`t quite realised that they can`t gallop at every open space and are quite opinionated about this. When winter has really set in it`s not so bad as good ground is a distant memory and we have all resigned ourselves to slow and steady hacks, but at the moment I`m struggling to adjust.
I hacked Llani out yesterday, and decided to go through the woods as it was bin day and I wasn`t sure I could be bothered to overcome him getting frightened of the thousandth green bin he saw, so I headed to the woods. As I expected after the heavy rain at the beginning of the week, the woods were quite slick with some boggy patches appearing. However, Llani had marched along the road smartly, not dawdling along, so I decided to make use of his attention. We took one of the main paths through the wood and I practiced walk-trot transitions. Out in the open the horses usually move quicker off the leg, but are more likely to raise their head and go onto the forehand. Which Llani did the first few times, but he soon settled when he realised that we weren`t cantering and there were only three or four strides of trot before going back to walk.
Once we reached the Avenue, which is a wide stretch of undulating grass, lined with oak trees, I continued with the transition work. I don`t like cantering along the Avenue as the ground is not great and the adjacent road is very fast. At the moment there are a few hidden patches of soft ground, so working in a steady trot meant I wasn`t caught out.
We turned up the road towards home and I did some leg yielding back and forth on my side of the road. I`m pleased to say Llani is really understanding this now, and moves over almost as easily as Otis, but he is yet to become as extravagant in his crossing of his legs. Then we reached the bottom of the road and had a steady incline towards home, so I asked Llani to trot very slowly up the hill. Usually he storms home, but I kept the contact firm but light, with the weight in my elbow, and really wrapped my leg around him so that he couldn`t drop back into walk. He felt great! Really uphill and rhythmical! It seemed to click out on the road, which hadn`t clicked in the arena.
When we reached home I took him for a canter in the arena, and could feel the benefit of the trot work as his canter transitions were great straight away. He was also very focused on me, which you can always tell as he then happily switches from flat mode to jumping mode, and he popped a few of the fillers confidently.
I`ve been reading articles by Lucinda Fredericks about how to school out on hacks, and when I find my own Salisbury Plains I think I`ll try some more of her exercises, especially when the ground restricts us to slow and steady work.