This is a post from my horseforum.com thread that I started when I got Max. I’m so lucky the forum is still around and I was able to go back and add it to Lipizzan Life.
Don’t worry; I have been slightly more dedicated to my riding than I have been to my journal about riding.
I missed Christmas eve and Christmas because of the holidays and everyone being sick during the holidays. I regretted missing Christmas eve, because I probably could have gone out and ridden. I couldn’t have gone riding Christmas day because my husband was very sick and I wouldn’t leave him alone like that! Thankfully, everyone has made a quick recovery, leaving me with no excuses to miss riding.
I went to the barn yesterday just in time to ride during a group lesson. Not in the lesson, just in the arena while it was going. The students didn’t seem too keen on the idea at first, but my riding instructor is really big on people learning to ride around other riders and horses. Also, I am very considerate to lessons in progress and keep my riding to whatever part of the arena they aren’t using. I also tuck my horse in somewhere out of the way when it comes time to canter or jump.
I was just happy that Max and I could ride with other people and horses, because he seems more comfortable that way after some time off.
I focused on flexation at the walk, bending him around my leg, doing spirals in and out, going in straight lines, having him reach for the bit. We also did some sitting trot, which felt awesome! I did catch myself slipping into my old ways of fighting with his mouth, which I was mentally chastising myself for immediately.
My riding instructor told me after that I looked really good, and she gave me some advice going forward. She said to just focus on us going forward and to not worry about our bend or contact. She said that would come to us without effort when we were both moving correctly.
My instructor and I were going to ride together today, but the insane amount of work it takes to keep a barn going got in the way of her riding her horse today. I went out to the barn and my other riding buddy was already on her horse! It turns out that her horse had thrown a rear shoe, so she wasn’t up for much work. It was just going to be Max and I today.
I started with a good warm up ethic. I wanted both of us to be fully mobile and comfortable in each pace before moving on to anything else. I haven’t ever really done that before. I know how important it is to build a good warm up base on every ride, though, so I wanted to start emphasizing that. Whereas before I would just walk around the ring both ways once and then start trotting, this time I did plenty of walking until I felt we were both loose and Max was snorting and flopping his ears forward. Then, I did some subtle flexation with him.
This is where I had probably my biggest epiphany of the ride. Instead of thinking of “pulling” this or that way on the reins, I started holding the reins as delicately as I could, and moving my shoulder/elbow/whatever position. The hands moved with the corresponding body part, but they didn’t become tense. They served as a kind of buffer between the movement and Max. That delicate tension, like holding a piece of wet spaghetti, was my hands job today. Making sure my shoulders were in the right position made him bend effortlessly. It was really awesome.
Once we were focused and relaxed and connected (though on a loose rein) I decided to try trotting. I wanted to do posting trot today. We started off just warming up at the trot, so it was kind of good and kind of bad. It was just to get us going.
Once we warmed up though, and it didn’t take much, I had the most magical trot. It was a trot I have had on him before, after my instructor has had him for a few rides to “get back into shape”. My hands and his mouth were connected so delicately. It was like the reins in my hand were an afterthought, and the whole ride, all at once. I forced myself to focus on using my posting to control his tempo. By control, I don’t mean obsessively control, just to keep us both steady and not racing around in some kind of panic (like we usually do). I was naturally upright and balanced through my center of gravity. The best part was that Max responded beautifully by stretching toward the bit and working through his whole body.
It was just magic. I made sure we did it both ways, and some figures as well, and then got right off him and hand walked him while I gushed about him being THE BEST HORSE EVER!!!!
After that, we explored a ridge of fresh grass, and then I tucked him in with his hay and drove home in a happy fuzz. We are getting there!!