I’m going to make a concerted effort not to start every lesson post with a whine about how I should lesson more often. I get stuck because I always feel like I haven’t done my homework if we haven’t nailed whatever it was we worked on last time, always feel like it doesn’t make sense to take a lesson if we’re not working at optimum power i.e. if I haven’t made it out to ride as much as humanly possibly in the week or so preceding…which is silly, because the longer I wait, the more pressure I put on myself, and the more time I have to either slip into bad habits or at the very least rehash things that I know we could do better. So. Yes, that was the paraphrased version.
Lesson! Another problem with waiting so long in between lessons is that when Christy asks how we’ve been doing, what problems I’ve had, what I want to work on my brain is like ummmm all the things? I mean we’re pretty much at a level where whatever we “work on” is going to be based around getting Pearl bending slightly more than your average telephone pole so I shouldn’t feel like I need a 20-slide powerpoint of exactly what I want our game plan to be for the next six months, but still. I also find it hard for me, having been out of any sort of training program for so long, to switch out of basic “exercise your horse” mode and into more of a “train your horse” frame of mind. I learned early on with this gal to mix things up from the standard w/t/reverse/t/c/reverse/c/done, but I feel like I need to post signs along the arena fence that say stuff like “are you having trouble bending in your corners? why don’t you do some spiraling in and out on a circle?” or “she’s rushing/blowing you off now, hmm? maybe you should work on getting your bigger trot/littler trot with your seat” or something. Maybe a list in my trunk would help.
Regardless of what we did in the lesson, we made a big step in transitioning Pearl to a bit. I’ve ridden her in a hackamore the whole time I’ve had her since this inside of her mouth looks like this
That’s with the dental speculum in, pink at the bottom is her tongue, and that whole mess you see where it should look like normal horse lips are melanomas.
Buuut…for the last month or so, she’s been carrying a bit around under the jumping hackamore. No reins attached so no pressure on the bit other than the cheekpieces holding it up. And she’s been totally fine with it, whereas the last time I put a bit on her (a couple rides last summer during which she chewed a rubber mullen down to the core, and approximately 5 minutes the previous winter when I’d left our hack at home, until I said screw it we’ll just ride in a halter) she started fussing and throwing her head even in the aisle when I put it on. She goes great in the shanked hack, and I’ll continue to use it for jumping when/if we go back to that, and she goes OK in the jumping hack for now, but she’s figured out that she can totally ignore it when I ask her to do un-fun stuff like not run around like a motorcycle, and I don’t think it’ll be enough for her when it’s less than 70 degrees out.
So we upped the ante, and attached reins to the bit. First I just held them and rode off the hackamore rein, but then we slooowwwwly switched over so that by the end of the lesson I had dropped the hackamore rein and was riding only off the bit. And she was awesome. A little bit of hmm, this is different pressure, but no resistance or fussing like when she went in a bit as a school horse. It was fairly nervewracking because I’m SO afraid that the slightest bit of “corrective” (= not just hand-holding/letting her do what she wants) pressure will instantly cause her to regress into headslinging no-brakes mode. She’s come a lot further than I give us credit for, though, so hopefully that’s not too likely to happen.
Other than the bit thing, the meat of our lesson was focused on moving/controlling her shoulders with the outside rein. Having taken lessons/read all the horsey internet ever I have heard “inside leg to outside rein” more times than I can count but couldn’t put it into “this is what your body does when you ride this way” terms. For whatever reason whenever I hear move her shoulders in with the outside rein my brain wants to translate that as neckreining, but I knew that wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what *exactly* was right. So I put on my big girl pants and asked. Last time I asked a question in a lesson was when I asked why Tommy went in a full cheek with no keepers/could we please not do that because when he tosses his head on the stupid lunge line he catches the lungeing attachment over the cheek and that strikes me as hella dangerous I was looked at like I had multiple heads, so that shut me up for a good while. Christy, on the other hand, was more than happy to oblige. The way I now need to think of it is, imagining the outside rein as the outermost boundary of a donut (donut being a circle…and then those weird bow tie donuts could be figure 8s…mmmm), and however much I push her off my inside leg into that rein vs. how much I allow her to move outward by softening or restricting with my outside hand controls her shape and the size of the circle. I think that sounds about right? Which when I write it out sounds pretty duh-how-did-I-not-get-that but sometimes I need to really be smacked in the face. It’s not easy, because however much training Pearl has had, she’s not super responsive to leg as a sideways aid rather than only a forward one. So I need to remember to use my inside leg as loud as I want her to respond to normally, and if I don’t get a response, kick or tap or whatever I need to do to get a response so that I can release. Duly noted.
Had C take some video at the end, while she walked us through the above. That way I can a) listen to what she’s saying and connect the visual cues of how my horse is going with what it felt like while I was riding and b) pull screencaps at optimal moments so I can give the illusion that we actually have our act together.
Isn’t she so stinkin’ cute? We obviously only looked like this for a fraction of the time, but now that I know we can, I’ve got something to aim for.
The whole video segment (both computer and self are too cranky to trim it down, so have an 8 minute clip)
I know I shouldn’t get ahead of myself and start daydreaming, because the last thing a semi-employed not-sure-where-life-is-going living-in-her-parents-house even-if-I-don’t-go-back-to-school-I-still-have-plenty-of-student-loans-to-pay-off horse owner needs to spend money on is horse showing, but something’s gotta get me through the winter, I’ve already been called delusional, my horse is a freaking rock star, and if I did believe in either some sort of cosmic “have enough bad and you’ll get some good” or guardian angels they’d both owe me a fat one, so I’m gonna keep dreaming.