Photo by High Time Photography
It is Friday which means that Ike and I had our weekly lesson with Ms. C. I’m wishing that our hot tub was filled because it would certainly relieve my tired arms and legs. She put us through our paces today and announced that Ike is ready for more demanding work. Now we are not talking hours and hours of relentless work, but that he is ready to hear and respond to more subtle aids and for me to finesse his body parts – move just the shoulders, step under himself and engage the hind end, and show more flexion. Sure, not a problem…for a more coordinated rider. I’m the one who struggles to disconnect her own body parts so that I’m not sending mixed messages to Ike.
We always start with a relaxed walk and then pick up contact for our medium walk. No knuckling down necessary today, just a few well-timed half halts. Time for trot. I swear that sometimes it still feels like I’m riding Marmaduke. All parts are moving but none are talking to the other parts to see where they are going. It took a good fifteen minutes to establish a solid trot – I find that it helps to throw in different sized circles and short diagonals to finally get body parts working in unison. Ms. C noted that we are struggling less and less with centrifugal force, so I am now using some inside leg to engage the inside hind to get Ike to step up under himself and to find that inside-leg-to-outside-rein connection. A year ago that would have caused that outward force to send us into the fence. I swelled a bit with pride in how far my big man has come. Started with a basic trot circle and then with Ms. C’s direction, applied leg pressure. Oh, that is what that connection feels like. Cool.
Time to try some shoulder in under Ms. C’s watchful eye. As I’ve said before, I don’t have the feel for the correct angle yet. I’m pretty sure that when I try shoulder in when I’m alone, all I’m doing is overbending Ike’s neck. This is why I take weekly lessons. Since Ike and I are learning together, I need to hear what aid to give and exactly when to give it. Ike gets uptight when he struggles to understand what I’m asking. The dressage whip only adds to that stress when he sees it in his peripheral vision. “Drop the whip!!” Yes ma’am. That helped both of us. We struggle more to the right than to the left, but I guess even horses show some left or right dominance. No mastery of this skill yet, but feeling better about the progress forward. So now that the shoulders are under control, it was time to….
Canter! Just as with shoulder in, we struggle more to the right than to the left with canter these days (remember that right lead debacle during our last Training 1 test?). Ike gets in his own way with that dominant right shoulder which can push his weight to the outside. The whip was back in my left hand to help encourage the weight to the inside for the right lead canter transition. I asked for the right lead while on a circle and then cantered a couple of circles before heading down the long side. I tried asking for shoulder fore like I had on the left side. Not sure exactly what my body parts did, but Ike’s interpretation of my aids was a lovely flying change on the straight away. Cool! Ms. C asked me what I did, but to be honest I don’t exactly know. I know there was leg movement and weight shifting, but to my dismay, I probably could not reproduce the moment at this time…
But hey for a brief moment today, we were flying…and it was cool.