Getting old sucks.
Today I managed to nab Theo's dressage saddle from the school for my lesson. Since I was sharing my lesson with a somewhat nervous adult with a young horse, I had a good bit of confidence that galloping and jumping wasn't on the menu. I was right, it was a no stirrups transition day. Honestly, I've gone with no stirrups almost every ride for two weeks at this point except for when cantering in the open. Because I'm still a bit of a weenie.
Today really made my legs ache. Correct transitions requires a straight, forward horse. Getting Theo to that point is still a bit of a challenge, but riding him once he's there is freaking difficult. We got mi papi into what I call his working mode, where his TB half takes over and the work ethic kicks in. It's fantastic to ride, but you have to ride very correctly. He will overreact to aids, trying too hard to get it right. Correct the right shoulder and he may very well shoot out the left. The strong aids that are usually appropriate are suddenly too much and can cause a temper tantrum. These moments are what gives me hope that he will move up the levels. When he suddenly goes light in my hands and I have to manage him to make sure he doesn't go too deep, when he starts to bounce because his weight rocks back in preparation for transitions he knows are coming, I feel like I'm sitting on a horse that's capable of anything.
It's a sign of his changes that he needs to be released into a canter to break up his tension before going back to walk/trot transitions. He doesn't need a break, he needs an outlet for the forward and a way to break up the excess tension. He will snort and his ears will relax, then we can get back to work on the things that he finds difficult.
People that know him don't recognize him under saddle. The 'thigh master', the lazy, somewhat rude school horse is replaced by a horse that carries himself with some bounce and enthusiasm, looking for the next question. We have our bad moments, when he balks and shakes his head in annoyance or frustration. He bucked with me today when I really got after him about carrying himself in the canter. But those moments aren't about being asked to work, it's about things that are challenging or his confusion when he doesn't know what I want. Or I'm nagging. He hates that.
The price for this progress? I freaking HURT. I don't know how I'm going to get up the stairs to my bedroom after today's lesson. Riding deep and wrapping my legs around his barrel in order to lift him is new to my body and new muscles are developing. It sucks. It's working, but it sucks. My hips ache from the new position, my thighs cramp from shifting away from my knees, my calves burn from using new muscles to cue instead of using my heels. My back also aches from my work to fix my position. My shoulders will protest in the middle of the night from my new hand position, carried higher and with more pressure on the outside rein. Hot soaks and ibuprofen are becoming staples.
Today I actually sat a lengthened canter and felt my hips open up and get pulled in front of my shoulders. The rebuilding sucks, but it's starting to work.
Two different people have asked me if I'm going to buy Theo in the past 24 hours. It's almost starting to feel like a foregone conclusion. I'm trying to tap the brakes, but I'm almost the only person riding him right now. His shoes, supps, and worming are all mine to manage. I only borrow school tack on occasion, I generally use only my equipment. I'm not entirely sure how this happened. Owning him would make little difference at this point, so long as he kept the other half leaser. My bills would be the same, my riding schedule would be almost identical. It's all so neat and tidy.
I'm just not used to things being neat and tidy.