So it has been hotter than Hades these past few weeks. I will admit that I do not function at 100% when the heat index is over 100°F. I am certain that neither does my horse – there is a certain lack of pep in his step when the temperatures soar. So what is one to do when it is just too hot to put in any strenuous riding? One goes on vacation! Spent a week on the shore with family fishing, horseback riding on the beach, and amusing fellow beach goers with my feeble attempts on a standup paddleboard. If you think riding takes good balance and a strong core, just try standing on a paddleboard while trying to paddle and steer.
And while I had a fabulous time soaking up the sun while floating in the cool ocean waters, Ike stayed home and had some one-on-one time with Ms. C. He is not good at keeping our secrets and was obviously rather plow horse–like in his work with her since I received the following message: “Rode the giant, too heavy in everything!!!!! (yes, there were that many exclamation points.) So we had some ‘enlightening’ right away with no leaning on hands, legs or [in] the movement.”
I am now not the only one paying the price for Ike’s actions during my absence. During my first lesson after vacation, Ms. C first informed me that because of her work with Ike, that unless you are out for a hack and a relaxing ride, all of her students were now expected to actively ask for uphill balance…no more accepting lack of engagement or plodding around on the forehand. If we accept that during our training rides, then why wouldn’t our horses believe that it is acceptable in competition. Train like you are in the competition ring with a judge at C. Train for excellence and not for mediocrity. I have asked Ike to apologize to everyone, but he is rather unrepentant. So as his mother, I am truly sorry for Ike’s unapologetic behavior and half-assed work for Ms. C.
Achieving real uphill balance, having hind end engagement, sitting on the hind end, picking up the front end, making the forehand lighter, ending the plow horse movement, getting off the forehand. Whatever you call it, it still means that you will no longer carry your horse’s oversized head yourself. He is going to have to shoulder that load. It means that he will no longer bully you with his massive shoulder when resistant to the leg aids. I understand the concepts, but putting those concepts into practice can be challenging. It is much easier for me to achieve it with a double bridle, but for the time being, that toy has been taken away. “You need to be able to do this without the double.” Aaarrggghhh, but it is soooo much HARDER. But I knuckled under, tacked up with my snaffle, and worked on lightening Ike’s forehand. Ms. C provided me with a new visual to help drill in the concept of how to half halt effectively to achieve the desired result– Pretend you are pulling on a pair of wet riding pants when you are sweaty. Now there is an image to haunt your dreams…
But the funny thing is, that the image worked for me. My first solo ride after my lesson, I actually felt like Ike was sitting on his hind end more and moving like a real Second Level horse – not just a poser who gets lucky with good scores every now and again. It is that uphill feeling that we will need to make the transition to Third Level; I’m almost certain that plow horses do not achieve high scores at Third. So the next time you see me making a funny face while I am riding, you will know what is going through my head – “Must. Get. On. These. Sweaty. Pants.”