I had a lesson with Sherwin today, or rather yesterday, since it is midnight now. The Collegiate saddle is definitely making a difference with Chic, and with my balance. I do not feel tipped forward anymore, or like I am being pulled forward out of my position whenever she resists my hands. Speaking of which, she barely did that today in the lesson, compared to how bad she was two weeks ago.
The only major problem was getting Chic to the arena. I was riding her there instead of leading her. I feel like it is good to do both, but particularly good to ride her there, because she needs to be taught not to run off with me. Which is exactly what she tried to do, and succeeded in a few times. However, she was only able to run off with me because I allowed her to. Allow my to explain. We have one of these: http://www.abiequine.com/_assets/equine_images/product_photos/products/walkers/lead_walker2_672px.jpg I have to ride past this to get to the arena. This is when Chic likes to throw a hissy fit, because her pasture is just beyond the hot walker. Yes, she is buddy sour. She was throwing MASSIVE bucks and more substantial rears than usual, and when she starts doing that close to the hot walker, I worry that my back will get slammed by one of the metal bars. I am shocked that she isn’t spooked by the contraption. But she is clever, she knows that I will have minimal contact when she is underneath the walker, so she will get as close to it as possible. It’s a war of attrition, really. I don’t give up. She has to give up. That’s how it is, I will not let her boss me around like that. Still, it is scary when she gets too close for comfort to the walker. I wear a helmet, yes, but I can get my head lower than my back if bad comes to worse, however, that means that if she bucks high enough, I could still get seriously injured. Not to mention she could end up hurting or traumatising herself.
It’s funny really. The second we got into the arena, she was perfect. I mean she was a real dream. She was a little resistant bending to the left, but every horse has a weak side, and that is perfectly okay.
The lesson basically consisted of the sitting trot and riding in a large circle around Sherwin. We focused on slowing her cadence and teaching her that she doesn’t have to rush past my hands. I warmed her up for a few minutes at the walk, and then Sherwin had me start the circle around the outside of four cones that we used as markers. After going a few laps in both directions, keeping her steady and consistent, he had me trot two circles around each cone when I came to it. After a few laps of this, in each direction, he had me do the same exercise, but stop halfway in between the cones and back her a few steps. She is very soft in the mouth when I am riding her correctly. All I had to do was squeeze my hands gently and she would happily back for me. And she no longer thrusts her head sharply into the air when I ask her to trot. She also doe not resist my hands, as I said earlier. Probably because I am not riding like a cocky wanna-be cowboy anymore. 😉 I am using primarily open reins when I steer her. Anyways, after doing the basic circle, stop, back, and circle drills, Sherwin asked me to try to ask Chic to counter-bend. After a little resistance, simply because she had never done this before, she was counter-bending quite nicely and being generally accepting of what I was asking her to do. HOW I ask her to do it makes such a difference. She responds better to soft, gentle, reassuring reinforcement. Winchester responds better to me getting firmer and more assertive with him. He is not nearly as sensitive as Chic is, partly because he is older, and partly because he has a (usually) mellow temperament. But with Chic, I really need to pay closer attention to how I interact with her. The slightest thing can and will set her off, especially if I do not “explain”, if you will, to her what it means and that it will not hurt her, be it slowing down and relaxing or not running off with me. After the counter-bending, Sherwin asked a lot of us. He asked us to canter a circle around him. Now, the last time I had cantered Chic did not go so well. She was rushing, would not relax, and would NOT go in any kind of comprehensible direction. Today, however, she did VERY well. Sherwin and I were both impressed with how well she did. She still rushed a little, but her pace was slightly more relaxed, and she produced a few heavenly strides that felt like I was riding a rocking horse. Nice, long, easy strides that covered a lot of ground. 🙂 Like her daddy, Gucci. She also went very well in a circle pattern. She did not try to deviate or escape my hands, and I did not have to fight for control. I think it helps that I have so much more security in this new (new-to-me) saddle. My position still needs works, everyone’s does, but I can feel myself listening more to Chic and less to my anxieties over her going too fast.
And yes, I will have pictures soon. I need a new cord to plug my phone into the computer. The one I had been using is broken. Like all the others. Ugh.