Endorphin rush

I had THE best horsey ride this morning.  I had a couple of recipe-ish posts to post up but they’ll just have to wait.     I was on such a high afterward I thought I’d have to take some downers or something to get back to normal.   

I’d had a good lesson on Tuesday; I’d worked myself really hard, focusing on position and stability and just being as disciplined as I could [thanks for the advice Scary!].  It was a rewarding lesson as a result and I was quite sore afterward – sore in the good “ooh done some exercise” way.  I wanted to keep that progression and focus going. 

The Thursday morning ride is usually a bit tougher because of the time – like most people I’m not at my best in the morning; then when you add in the severe chronic pain “ouch” factor on waking it can be a bit rough.   This morning I moaned and groaned a bit but after missing both lessons last week due to shite weather and pain there was no way I was not going. 

Once out at the centre I loaded up L’s tack and grooming gear and went to pretty him up.  I could tell straight away he was in one of his looky looky hoppy hoppy moods and this became even more noticeable once out in the arena.  Up went the head oooh ooooh he’d never seen that over there before oooh and who were all these people and what were they doing wandering around ahhhhh.  I walked him around a bit before heading over to the ramp to get helped mounted up and we were off.

I got him a bit more focused and flexing while warming up.  We were trying out a new saddle [another one – it’s been musical saddles around here] which felt fantastic, like it was placing my legs and pelvis naturally and securely into position.  Lovely.  The coach had us doing lots of 20 metre circles; as the arena is 60 metres long we’d do a few twenty metre circles at the bottom of the arena then change rein into the middle circle and so on.  Then we moved onto serpentines, first at a walk.

The others in the class were having a slight problem with this and their horses wandering off in different directions, but Sue told me to keep going, serpentine-ing up and down the arena, now at a trot.  This was great fun and L. and I were having a ball, he was listening well and moving out, free forward motion.  Beautiful.  It was a great feeling, almost like I was riding on my own, in my own time, on my own pony, as Sue worked with the others and gave me the occasional direction – but not many, I was concentrating hard.

At the end of the lesson Sue gathered the others into the centre and asked if I wanted a canter – why ask?  Wheeee!  L. and I were both up for it – this little guy loves speed and I hadn’t got a canter in on Tuesday so was ready to rock.  I did a 20 metre circle at a trot at C and then came out, sat as I brought him into the long side, inside leg on, outside leg behind the girth and we were off.  He powered into a huge canter and [again] I couldn’t help the quiet “whee” that erupted; except it wasn’t that quiet as a few people watching at the rail cracked up … Oh dear I am such a dork. 

I settled him a little and on we went, a lovely even canter and I was keeping my legs and bum still and secure, rocking with the movement.  Usually Sue tells me to come back to the trot after one long side and one short but this time she told me to keep on going.  Tough decision, huh.  So we did a whole lap and then as we were coming up the long side, then around the top again we had a slight … glitch.

Someone was out behind the sheds rolling barrels around and flapping blankets – okay so it’s their job but they aren’t supposed to do it in lesson time – and L. spooked like crazy.  Rear, leap, mad uncontrolled gallop.  This has happened before at the canter and I think might be a trick of his, him being such a looky pony and all.  This time we were going faster – but I didn’t lose it, wonder of wonders!   I actually felt really secure and in control as I sat deep, shortened rein, whoooaaaa’d and calmed him with voice, easy baby easy, then brought him around in a tight circle and eased the quivering mess down to a walk. 

I was a bit of a quivering mess too, but not too bad.  I think it could have been messy if he hadn’t been focused on me and listening throughout the lesson, if that makes sense.  Actually I have to admit that I felt utterly elated that I hadn’t come off, that I’d kept my legs and seat in place, that he’d listened to me.  Wooooo!  Sue had come running from the other end of the arena when he spooked but I’d already got him slowed by the time she reached us.  She was very congratulatory at how I’d sat him throughout the canter and spook, and brought him back around [she was also really pissed off at the activity that had set him off].  She even said something about “good balance” and I laughed and laughed – the first time I’d heard that phrase applied to myself!

So it was a great lesson and I was on cloud nine; I’d worked really hard, got the pony moving nicely, done some nice dressage-y stuff and I’d sat a power canter and a spook, and not come off.  I’m definitely getting stronger, and better, and it’s so good to have that sort of tangible proof that one has progressed.  [Not falling off at an unexpected spook at speed is pretty decent tangible proof as far as I’m concerned … but don’t worry, I won’t get cocky!]

. . . . . . . . . .

The coach is also getting me involved in working on some re-training with L., which apart from being additional learning experience is very, very exciting and interesting.  Being more than a passenger, as it were, and teaching / learning with the horse.   I had asked her if anyone was getting upset with me getting L. all the time and not sharing, and maybe I should ride someone else, but she said no, that she wanted us to keep working together as we were both progressing so well.

His main issues are obvious – apart from normal pony narkiness he has problems with transitions, leaping into them, sticking his head in the air and straightening his neck rather than flexing and going soft.   So we’re working on using more leg as well as keeping contact on the inside rein with the outside rein held out to the side a little, and jiggling the bit a little to keep him focused.  When he lowers his head and flexes his neck he gets lots of love and praise.  He’s a clever pony and is already getting the idea after a few days.  I wonder if using draw reins might help too, with the whole pressure / release thing.

Softer transitions are going to take time and a bit more work too.  I personally think his main issue here is plain keenness, he’s so eager to go and doesn’t often get to “go” [except in a few lessons like with me and the coach] so when asked to go he powers off and then is pulled back, so he gets even more frustrated.  He needs to know it’s okay to go off slow.  Today’s work on circles and serpentines at a trot up and down the arena got him going at a slower, more float-y trot as it was constant forward motion.  Hopefully we’ll both get more of that; we both enjoy it!  It’s certainly getting us both fitter [especially me, with all that rising trot, oof – also deliberately slowing my rising to slow his pace, which is surprisingly difficult, it’s like sit sit rise rise sit sit etc].  And maybe we’ll learn to do it at a canter too …

. . . . . . . . . .

Oh boy, would you listen to me yapping as if I knew what I was talking about!  But then again I’ve absorbed a lot listening to the coaches in and out of lessons, and reading my favourite horsey blogs has given me more insights and knowledge than I would have otherwise.  I need to get some books too  … hmmmm both my big brothers called yesterday asking what I wanted for my birthday [08-08-08] and I mildly suggested Borders gift cards … we’ll see. 

Any ideas / thoughts?

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  • jewel and abu  On Friday 8 August 2008 at 7:44 am

    OH look out, it sounds like you had better come out west and ride a bronco. I have a grey one for you. Oh sweetie so glad to hear about the progression in your skills and your love for that snarky ponykins. SO do tell what is this new wonder saddle you are riding???

  • otterkat  On Saturday 9 August 2008 at 10:50 am

    Ha, I gotta get over myself. You can bet I’ll have a disastrous lesson next week to balance things out! It’s such fun though, all this dressaging. I loved jumping & XC as a teen but I’m finding dressage really satisfying this time around – it’s kinda more cerebral or something. All in the details.

    I have no idea about the saddle – will make sure to take note next week. All I know is that it’s a very good EXPENSIVE one. I found that the Isabell Werth I liked so much in the beginning misaligned my pelvis & swayed my back even more; if you look at the images on the Bates site you can see a huge difference b/w the angle of seat / cantle on the Isabel vs the Caprilli which is deeper with a more subtle angle. Is that why you prefer the Caprilli?

  • GreyHorseMatters  On Saturday 9 August 2008 at 10:57 am

    Happy Birthday? if I’m reading the post right!

    You had a great lesson. I think you and L are perfect for each other. Congratulations for keeping your head and staying on at the spook, not everyone can do that and bring a horse back. That’s just great. If you are looking for a good book I can recommend one that I like along with a DVD, they are both called Balance and Movement by Susan Von Dietze(Don’t know if I have that spelling exactly right) but I’m sure you will find it online. It has great exercises on the video to practice I really liked it, in fact I’m going to do a post on it when I get the chance.

    Congratulations again on a great ride, things are really coming together for you.

  • Sue  On Sunday 24 August 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Hey, that sounds great, getting involved in retraining… as you can imagine, I’ve got somebody [or two bodies] that could do with a bit of remedial! I remember one lesson I had with Reb in which all we did were transitions from walk to trot to canter, over and over, around and around, and he didn’t buck once — because he was THINKING.
    Well done, you, and happy birthday!

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