Thursday, December 10, 2009

happy medium=happy horse=happy rider!

I went to the barn tonight hoping that someone else would be around so that I could ride. I was in luck! I tacked Lucy up and we warmed up. G, the trainer at the barn, was finishing up another lesson, and I mentioned that I really wanted to set up a lesson with her. It turned out that she had time right that instant to teach a lesson!

I looooooooooooooove her teaching style. She is concise, eloquent, doesn't hound you with a million instructions to think about all at once, and builds on skills as the lesson progresses. She has a background in eventing and her style is kind of a cross between dressage and hunt seat. She talked a lot about me getting my pelvis under me instead of sticking my butt out (aka the cursed hunter perch, which I didn't even think I did that badly but after riding tonight I realize it was actually pretty bad!). She let me ride Lucy in a training martingale that she has, which really helped encourage her to travel straight through her shoulders. We started simple, with just walking and asking Lucy to lift her rib cage/spine into my seat, instead of traveling around hollowed out. I had to remember how to use my leg to support, not just as a "speed up" tool. I have also gotten into the terrible habit of hunching through my shoulders and bracing against Lucy. If she got quick, my response has turned into me leaning back, sticking my legs out in front of me, and bracing my entire body, all BIG no-no's! The saddest part about the whole thing is that until G was telling me how I should be sitting, I didn't even realize that I was doing any of that! Sitting properly felt like heaven. My whole upper body and thoracic spine was practically sighing with relief because it could move and not be so tight and rigid all the time!

We progressed into the trot, and did lots of spirals, both downwards and upwards. I had to concentrate on using my inside hand and outside leg as "walls" on the downward spirals, and my outside hand and inside leg as the walls on the upwards spirals. We did spirals in both directions at both ends of the arena, with periods of relaxed walking on a loose rein between them. I noticed a huge difference after finishing the spirals in the way she traveled down the straight sides of the arena. She felt so loose and swingy and wasn't trying to bulge at all. It was SO NICE!!!

We did some exercises like beginnings of leg yield and shoulder fore to get Lucy used to leg not being the enemy. We worked on an instant reward system: as soon as Lucy did what we were asking, she got one whole lap of long rein and lots of attention and pats. She did her little wiggly maneuvers here and there (and at one point tried to run right out the door to the arena and almost ran over someone who was watching the lesson!) but I was glad she was pulling her usual tricks, because then G was able to walk me through the best way to fix them.

At the end after a lot of really nice work at the walk and trot, we had two very short canters. They both started out strong, but as soon as I stopped looking like I was auditioning for the part of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, got my leg underneath me, and relaxed through my hips, magically the horse was happily cantering around on a soft (but round and in control) contact.

It was amazing to ride Lucy as we were going through these exercises because I was finally speaking her language with G's guidance. My horse absolutely gave 150% effort tonight and just tried her hardest to please, and I couldn't have been happier!

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