The holiday respite is over, and Ike and I hit the saddle with a lesson with Ms. C on Friday after Christmas. Headed out to the barn after my work day was over, which meant that I only had about two hours of sunlight to work with before the sun made its decent below the horizon. The sun sat low in the sky for most of the lesson which made for rather blinding moments when you headed towards the west end of the arena. The inability to see frazzled Ike a bit – I suppose the natural instinct of a prey animal is to be cautious in situations where the predator could be lurking. When I say that Ike was frazzled, I mean that he was wound up like a wind-up toy ready to “boing” at any moment.
To try and get some quality work in spite of the blinding conditions, we first avoided the far end of the arena and then worked on some lateral exercises. Why fight a battle that wasn’t necessary? The lateral exercises helped to diffuse the tenseness by forcing Ike and I to concentrate. Since the lateral work is still relatively new to Ike’s repertoire, I still have to think about what aides to give and when to give them. Big boy has to focus on what I’m asking and then attempt to comply with my request. If you saw our video from our last lesson, you know that we still have alignment issues with leg yield. We also struggle with our shoulder in position…too much neck bend, shoulders too straight, hind end not stepping up and under enough…the usual issues everyone has.
In our lesson this week, the exercise was to leg yield nose-to-rail, straighten across the arena, and then perform shoulder in down the other long side. Thank goodness that we had Ms. C there to remind me when we were headed out of alignment. Sometimes I can tell, but other times, I’m a bit clueless. I also had to be willing to trust Ike and push my hands forward – challenging to do when you are riding a very large, very tense horse who is ready to exhibit his best flight reflex. But wow, when I did trust Ike and allow Ike to move, Ike’s leg yield was dynamite. Ms. C said to remember that feeling since that movement will earn us an 8 from any judge. Awesome. Our shoulder in was adequate, but still not show worthy.
After our successful lateral work, we decided to give canter a go. Yikes! I was riding Scooby Doo. Ms. C hollered as a careened past her that Ike was running through my hands and asked if I could slow him down. Umm, no, I cannot. I tried my best to sit back, sit deep, and half halt, but Ike just scoffed at me. When I finally gained control, Ms. C had us halt and try some halt-canter transitions. So, Ike, if you insist on this crazy forward canter work, then we will redirect your focus and make you use the power for good. Big boy did surprisingly well at this exercise even though this was his first go at these transitions. Our canter-halt transitions were not as successful as the up transitions, but thankfully we did not fall flat on our faces.
We ended our lesson with a feeble attempt at a stretch down trot. Not a big surprise that there was not much stretch and Ike was a bit too quick. By this time, the sun was almost down behind the trees and his buddy was calling for him from the barn. Time to call it quits for the day. While the sun was setting on our lesson, the future is looking bright for Ike!