Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Old dog using old tricks

Today was good. It's always nice to think that, and after our rather tense lesson on Thursday, it was doubly nice. The princess does not like riding in the rain and at one point in our lesson threw a temper tantrum. She was also feeling a bit sore after some serious work, and was just not in the mood to deal with me and my demands. I had to travel over the weekend, so she got light work with one of the other riders at the barn, and then Monday completely off.

She was nice and mellow today, not a lot of bad steps and clearly not feeling sore. Note to self, a sore Fiona tends to be a tight, fast Fiona. Our latest work has been on getting her as low and relaxed as possible. Getting her forward or on the bit is probably never going to be our issues. Our issues instead are in keeping her from being dependent on my hands and letting her know she has to control herself.

Never let it be said that anything we learn is a waste. I didn't think I'd ever use my hunter princess background again, or the things I learned when I was riding at a western pleasure barn. Guess what? Those tricks are very, very useful when teaching a horse to trot around, long and low, on a loose rein.

Slowing a thoroughbred down without using the reins is always a challenge. It wasn't until it dawned on me that my trainer wanted her to go like a hunter in a hack that the light bulb clicked and I started to ride her like that. We can't create a true forward without her being relaxed, rhythmic, and supple. It feels weird, since I know she's on her forehand more than she should be, but I keep reminding myself that she's not strong enough yet to carry herself properly. One day she will be, but not today. Asking for that today will just result in tension and soreness, probably ending in evasion. It's like weight lifting. We need to work up to it, and we need to do it in sets.

I am so, so, so glad my trainer rides her once a week. It's a sanity check and a barometer on our progress.

Today I finally made the connection between her tripping and her getting tired. She's so willing that it's hard to tell if she's tired. I'm finally getting to know her well enough to pick up the little signs, and since I'm not carrying her around with my hands, I can pick up those little trips now. Time to back off on trot and canter work and spend more time walking. And time for me to work on my patience. There's no rush, and if I take my time now, it will pay off in the end.

The currying has certainly paid off. She's actually a liver chestnut underneath everything. The more I curry, the darker and shinier she gets. I can't wait to see her winter coat come in. She could be surprisingly dark. Which explains that two tone tail that was confusing everyone. She's starting to really fill out. The 48 inch girth I got for her might not be her girth come spring. I might have to move her up to a 50.

We have a show this weekend. Yes, it's a schooling two phase, but it dawned on me today that I have a competition with her already. We're in pre-elementary with 22" fences and a walk/trot dressage test. It should be very interesting.

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