Ike and I had an incredible lesson with Ms. C yesterday. The weather cooperated. Ike cooperated. The evil vulture flock was nowhere to be seen. My body cooperated, i.e., the ankle pain was almost nonexistent. And the new DerDau’s made their first appearance at the barn and made it home with no hoof impressions or other permanent damage.
As Ike and I are getting back into regular work, I’m realizing my biggest problem…not my only problem…..but the one that plagues me and many other average riders. We do not ride every stride. People like me ask their horse for a particular gait, and then we become passengers. Here comes a corner, but at the last minute, we move our hand and hope that our horse is wise enough to know to turn rather than jumping over the dressage arena. If you ask a professional, they will tell you that they give a small half halt a stride or two before the corner and then again coming out of the corner. Those pros are always planning ahead and staying 5-6 strides in front of their current position. I, on the other hand, hit cruise control, get distracted by a butterfly/bird/cat, and then realize Ike has flattened and fallen on the forehand. If I were a dog, I’d be the one who……………..Squirrel!!!………………..you get the idea.
During my lessons, Ms. C keeps me on task and focused on the exercise. This spring we are working on transitioning to First Level. In order to do that, we need to achieve a consistent connection at the walk and trot. If I can’t keep it in those gaits, the canter will be darn near impossible, but ultimately we need it in the canter as well. Ms. C has us working on a 15 meter circle with numerous transitions. No longer will a half-ass transition be accepted. Do it again until you get it right. To not repeat it only tells Ike that what he did is acceptable. But for full disclosure, sometimes the mistakes are on my side of the equation. My aids were too loud which caused Ike to misinterpret my request. Do it again Alison. Be a little more subtle.
Bending is the other important skill that we are trying to improve. I was thrilled yesterday when Ms. C noted that Ike was bending much more consistently. Interesting, Ike has been out of work for the better part of two months…how is it that we are better? Ah, his rider has a purchased a vowel and is now understanding how to properly bend her horse while on a circle. Yes, I occasionally over bend Ike’s body or let the outside shoulder lead us astray, but I can keep all of Ike’s body parts working as one more often than not. We were doing so well yesterday that we even attempted the canter. The best we could do was 5 or 6 strides before Ike said, “too hard to maintain.” Five or 6 strides is still better than no strides or looking like Scooby Doo. Even harder to achieve was the canter to trot transition with Ike in the proper bend – someone still allows her reins to get a bit long while cantering so that there is no connection in the down transition. Add that to the list of problems to fix.
When our lesson was done, I could not have been more pleased with Ike’s work. Grumpy horse is being pushed out by happy horse; it doesn’t hurt that Ms. C gives Ike a goodie during the breaks in our work. Still trying to figure out why the rider doesn’t get a goodie as well. It might help with my focus on the lesson and not on the squirrels. 🙂