Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lesson Day: Pete, Saddleseat, and Snowy Noses

Not surprisingly, my lesson tonight was on an another of the indoor horses - the car thermometer read 0', but inside was much warmer.

Eric offered me my choice, western pleasure or saddleseat - I didn't really have a preference, so he had me get Pete out.  "We'll go with one that will keep you warm," he said. 

Pete's a hackney/Arab-cross; a medium-sized, upright, compact-bodied, large-headed chestnut pinto. 

"He might be a bit fresh, he hasn't really been worked much since the end of show season."  Ummmm...  Really?  "Pete can be a bit squirrelly on occasion, but he's really talented."  Eric ran down the horse's accomplishments - an impressive list - under youth and open riders - while he hunted for the right saddle. 

Pete rolled one eye back to look at me as I brushed him, and heaved a big sigh when the very flat saddle settled on his back.
"We'll just lunge him for a couple of minutes to get the buck out - if he feels hunchy when you get on, let me know."  You betcha! 

I jokingly accused Eric of wanting to make sure I had a chance to practice the whole "melting into the saddle" thing, and he just grinned at me. 

Pete stood firmly planted while I adjusted the bridle to fit his big head - the buckle was stiff, and it took me three times of on/off to get it right.  He opened his mouth and lipped the bit up politely every single time.  He didn't budge a hoof as I swung on, and walked off nice as pie when I asked.  Not a hunch to be felt.

With Pete's cooperation, the rest of the lesson was incredibly helpful.  I've watched saddleseat at shows, but I've never ever considered riding it.  As it turns out, getting the varying degrees of collection - which Pete was very, very capable of performing - required me to really focus on my upper body position, lower leg position, and relaxing through my lower back.  Oddly, all areas I need to work on....

While he did get hollow and stick his nose out (read, when I slipped up and let him), Pete was completely sane and sensible, with no sign of loose screws or squirrelliness.  A little look-y now and then, but in a lot of ways and despite their dramatically different builds, he was much more similar to riding Sunny - particularly the tendency to get hollow and the lookiness - than either Pride or Alisha. 

I enjoyed the heck out of the opportunity - I've always thought saddleseat riders looked, well, behind their horses.  It certainly appears as if they're holding themselves up by the reins.  But it didn't feel anything like that on top.  The way Pete is put together - that long neck, upright front end, short back, and powerful hindquarters, let him drive up underneath himself.  When he was collected and balanced, he was as light in my hands as Pride, the cute little Arab reiner I rode last week.  Just like in reining, I had to remember to really keep my shoulders back, my head up, and my weight over my hips - making it easier for him to elevate in front and really extend and reach forward.
 I'm consistently amazed by how something as simple as tipping my chin up and rolling my shoulders back impacts the horse's frame.

Elsewhere in my horse world.... I finally moved the trailer out to the farm today - they're saying we may get another 4" of snow tomorrow, and since the city already plowed around the trailer once while I was out of town for work earlier in the week, I didn't want to push my luck and end up with a ticket - or with it stuck in a giant drift I'd have to shovel free of.

The temperature had climbed all the way up to  - 2 by half past noon.  Kind of a shock to the system after the warm weather we've had 'til now, but at least the sun was out.  The windchill was -19, but hey, who's counting.

They look so innocent, don't they?
The boys were napping in the lee of the hill where the sun could hit them, breath steaming in the cold, but they didn't seem phased one bit by the weather.  I picked out feet and scritched itchy spots.  They've been gated out of the pastures now, probably for the remainder of the winter, since the electric fence seems to have developed a short. 

Unfortunately, if it's not hot, they can't be trusted not to creep through it.  G came home Tuesday night while I was gone and found them in the driveway.  They'd been helping themselves to one of the bales he feeds the sheep from, so hadn't gone far, thank goodness.  But as a result they got to spend Tuesday night and all day Wednesday in with the sheep.  G put panels up across the alley out to the pastures Wednesday afternoon, and when I got back Wednesday night I moved the boys back in where they belong.  Troublemakers, the both of them.

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