Friday, December 9, 2011

Riding the Slide

Lesson day yesterday, but it was just too cold to get Sunny all sweaty again.  He'll get his turn this weekend, outside in the sunshine on the trail.

I had my choice when I arrived - since this is a down period for lessons (apparently not too many people are interested in riding in the cold... go figure!) and the wind-up for show season hasn't started yet, the barn is pretty quiet. I could pick: hunt seat, English pleasure, western pleasure, or a reiner.  English pleasure is so far out of my arena that I wouldn't know where to begin - I opted for a reiner.

Eric had me get Pride out.  He's a cute little bay Arab; fine-boned and delicate with a compact build.  Very catty and light on his feet.  And very narrow after Sunny's barrel-shape. 

Tacking up was western, of course.  A simple O-ring snaffle and blue leg wraps.  Eric demonstrated the proper method on the fronts, and had me do the rears.  Something I've always wanted to learn, but have been afraid to try on my own for fear of screwing it up.  Very cool.

From memory, so hopefully right - I'm going to have to practice!

Wrap to the inside. 
The roll should unwrap counterclockwise, 
or the velcro fastener will be backwards when you finish the wrap.  
It should be snug, but not tight, with no wrinkles.  
Start just below the knee on the cannon bone and wrap downwards, 
lapping about halfway down each time.  
At the bottom of the cannon, 
take a wrap down under the bulb of the fetlock, 
around once, and then back down 
under the bulb once more. 
The wrap should have a small V in the middle/front
of the leg if done properly.  
Then wrap back up to the top of the cannon bone again 
to finish the where it started.

Once Pride was dressed, Eric put us through the usual warm-up exercises, which also served as an opportunity to get connected.  Riding a finished horse, it's amazing the difference in balance and cadence - and lightness.  He was a bit fresh to start with, but forward is good, and he was cooperative about it, so no worries there.  Is it comforting, or disheartening to know that I can consistently muck up a sidepass on a horse that actually knows what he's doing?  Sigh... 

So.  Other than the saddle, there are a few definite differences between hunt seat and reining. In a nutshell:

  • Hunt: lots of trotting - sitting and posting
  • Reining: no trotting.  It's either walking, loping or galloping
  • Hunt: seat is centered or forward.
  • Reining: seat is deep and balanced, but never forward.
  • Hunt: stop is round, collected, and legs stay on through the entire downward transition, only coming off when the stop is complete.
  • Reining: stop is round, collected, and the stop comes through your seat - when your leg comes off their sides and forward, the horse stops.  And when you're preparing for a stop, you go faster.
I'm sure there are lots of others that will become clear as time passes.  And for showing, there would be differences in the headstall, as well.  But pretty much all of Eric's horses work in a plain O-ring or D-ring snaffle for day-to-day, so that wasn't any different.  Cues for shoulder-in/out, haunches-in/out, canter/lope, sidepass, halfpass, etc. are the same as what I've been working on with Sunny.  Which sadly didn't necessarily make them any easier to get right.

Oddly, although I struggled as usual with lope departures, stopping that hard felt fairly natural.  Other than forgetting to say "whoa" a couple of times, and getting slightly stiff and rocking forward once, sitting deep, relaxed, and pushing my feet forward into the slide felt fine.  Unlike riding Sunny, where I struggle just to keep him from breaking back to a trot, and whose balance on a circle is still developing, Pride patters neatly around.  Asking him to speed up is as simple as moving your hands forward and driving with your hips, leg and seat.  Want to slow down?  Slow the rate of your hips.  Stop?  Take your legs off and remember to say, "Whoa!"

Loping off was a challenge, though.  Ideally, from a collected walk with the horse bent slightly on the circle, I would cue for the lope by tipping his nose in and sliding my outside leg back, then squeezing with both legs and kissing.  And he should step nicely up into a lope.  Except not... or at least not consistently.  Ultimately, we determined that I was being too busy with my hands and legs in preparing for the transition.  If I kept everything crisp and clear, he'd step up.  If I monkeyed with trying to get him perfectly in frame and moving forward, he was getting so many signals he just ignored me.  I suspect I've been doing the same thing with Sunny.  And believe me, I was making mental notes!

Spinning... Do you get dizzy easily?  Here again, right and left were not my friends, but I managed to successfully coordinate myself to get a couple of decent efforts.  And actually, I learned as much from doing things wrong - I was having a horrible time to the left.  Until I shifted my weight back and suddenly Pride was spinning.  With my weight off his shoulders he was able to rock back on his hindquarters properly.  

It didn't feel as if I worked as hard as I usually do with Sunny, and Pride certainly wasn't as sweaty, but I'm pleasantly sore this morning in some interesting places.  Different muscles at work, quite definitely!  And I'm looking forward to using them again!

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