Monday, May 24, 2010

Great Lesson, Crappy Ride

I arrived at my former instructor's place at around 10 AM on 5/23 to get my borrowed horse ready for my lesson at 10:30. I had decided to ride Charlie, a 16 hand Quarter Horse-something or other cross gelding. I had only ridden him twice before, and it had been over a year since I'd last ridden him, so I figured it would be interesting to ride him again. He was cooperative, and I took the flash noseband off his bridle when I couldn't figure out how to adjust it (well, I've never used a flash) and he kept looking at me as I fiddled with it like "Please, no". I figured he probably didn't need his mouth strapped shut, and if he was absolutely horrible without the flash, I could always have Sue put it on.

Charlie started out sluggish, and I had left my dressage whip (the nice, long one with the shiny silver cap that I don't get to use on Sofie hardly ever) on the mounting block. Sue had me let go with my legs and seat, stop driving and just keep everything very loose and "allowing". Charlie responded with a power walk! It didn't last, of course, so Sue introduced me to an aid she learned over the winter from another local trainer (the guy I wanted to ride with, but he's too expensive and will only go to certain barns). It's kind of a lifting, upward squeeze with your legs, and an upward push with your seat. It was effective as a "reminder" for Charlie to keep the tempo energetic, along with the loose, relaxed seat and leg to keep him happy and moving freely forward.

As far as my position went, she actually did not say anything like "Wow, I can tell you've been riding on your own for a long time!". My position only needed a few minor adjustments, happily enough. She reminded me to distribute my weight on all three points of my seat (I tend to ride a little too far back on my "pockets", apparently) and told me I needed to steady my core a bit, because apparently my back was moving a bit too much, and if I steady it, I have more power and more ability to half halt. That was haaaaaard. Core strength is not really my thing, but steadying my core did help a lot with speed control, and I think it will really help me regulate my posting, which helps regulate my horse as well.

Then we worked on suppling, and Sue told me that I need to look ahead and plan my turns, and look with intention (which I knew I needed to work on) but that I also need to make sure that my horse's eyes are looking where I look. Which really makes sense, because many times I've looked ahead, intending to make a turn, and Sofie has been looking some other direction. So I worked on looking ahead and getting Charlie flexed to match where my eyes were, which was tricky because I like to be really, really passive with my hands (unless I'm on a bolting, bucking or otherwise disobedient horse). Sue said something like "You have nice, soft hands, but I want you to use them a little more!" Yep, trying here, Sue! She also hand me use inside leg in time with the inside hind coming forward to engage that leg and prevent falling in, and outside thigh to turn the horse.

So for a while longer we worked on bending and straight lines with all that in mind. Look with intention, flex the horse to the inside, inside leg, outside thigh, keep your core steady, keep the tempo...yeah, lots of stuff. I love dressage, though, it's so cool when you get that connection. Charlie was a very good boy (even though he decided he was done after 45 minutes and I required a whip to get him going again at more than a crawl) and I was relieved that Sue has not been corrupted by the vast majority of dressage people who pull their horses' heads in all the time. I got to have my awesome floaty reins, which I hardly ever used. I really lucked out with nice, breezy weather (it is so horribly hot here this week!), and both Sue and my former instructor thought I looked good, especially for having been without a trainer all this time. And I may be able to get weekly lessons with Sue, which would be invaluable.

Later that day, we went to the barn to see Sofa. The weather sucked, it was hot and nasty, and I wouldn't have even gone to the barn if I could've avoided it but Sofie hadn't been worked for two days, so we needed to do something with her. She walked right up to me as soon as she saw me, and she was moving great and didn't seem too energetic, just a little inverted. So we saddled her up, and I took her out to the yard. She started out nicely enough, but was a little inverted and looky on the trail, and a little rushy at the trot. Back in the yard, things started to fall apart. Big time. She was looking at the neighbor's yard and generally being inattentive and silly. As we turned toward the barn, she decided she wanted to canter, then decided to bounce around and be pissed off because I had a little too much contact on the reins. I wrestled her back to a walk and continued on to the barn, when she heard some little insignificant banging type noise that normally would be less than insignificant to her, but on this particular night she spooked and bolted at it. I managed to not panic and cling to the reins, and I let them forward and brought her back with my seat. But after that she was just impossible, especially when she saw the other horses coming in, and her friend Piper being hand-grazed in the yard.

Then later, when I was handwalking her after her bath, one of the neighbor's dogs saw her walking past, and it turned out he was loose because his owner didn't think anyone was doing anything in Judy's yard anymore, so the dog burst through the hedge and I had to let Sofie go because I knew there would be no stopping her. The dog chased her for a bit, then went back to his yard after I yelled at him. Sofie thankfully did not step on her lead rope or slide/fall on the concrete aisle when she ducked into the barn. But it was the perfect end to a horribly sucky time with my horse. I know I handled it the best I could, what with me being tired/hungry and Sofie having too much energy/thinking she needed to go in for the night. But it reeeeeally sucked, and I'm trying not to worry too much about any potential training issues that might come out of this, and I'm really trying not to take it personally, because it's really not personal. But it feels that way.

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