Friday, February 10, 2012

Lesson Day: Dancer, hunt seat

Between work & weather, I haven't ridden since last week's lesson.  Not ideal - visualizing keeping my lower legs quiet and correct only works so well, you know?  Sunny and Thunder don't seem to mind the break - Sunny hollers at me daily as soon as I step out of the car, and they're happy to be fussed over without having to work for their hay.  Gluttons.

Yesterday was a warm, windy day - lately we've had something of a rollercoaster, temp-wise, with highs ranging from teens to low 50's - so I dressed for an outdoor ride in multiple layers, in case we ended up indoors.  Even windy, outside is preferable though.  Have to say, I LOVE the drainage on Eric's arena - not sure what his the base is, but the top is sand and the footing is fabulous: soft, without being deep, and it dries out fast.

This time, since I knew which horse to collect, he sent me after Dancer myself.  He's outside in the big lot, and I had a train of inquisitive critters behind me by the time I got to the bale Dancer was munching.  (Of course I stopped to do some nose-rubbing on the way.)  He poked his nose in the halter and in fairly short order we were maneuvering out the gate - to the displeasure of several of his mates, who wanted to come, too.

I remembered my saddle, so I didn't have to worry about adjusting stirrups, which was nice.  Brushed and tacked up, we headed outside, Eric with Pride - who next to Dancer's height looks even more perfectly petite and Breyer-like.  He's so CUTE.  I'll have to see if I can't locate a picture.

On top, Dancer felt good.  Not quite as if I was riding a different horse, but certainly a much more relaxed one.  Even with the wind whipping around our ears and the dog rattling around in the underbrush outside the arena, he rounded sweetly up to contact and walked - not jigged - off, flexing easily into the slight inside bend I asked for.  It was such a change from the beginning of our previous lesson, I asked Eric if he'd been riding him since last week, but no - I was the last one to ride him.   

And I got a compliment!  Dancer is "sensitive" -  he really doesn't like being grabbed in the mouth (what horse would?) and he gets frustrated easily - which can make him challenging to ride.  It's one of the reasons Eric doesn't use him for lessons as much.  But he's just as quick to relax and cooperate if he clicks with his rider.  We apparently click, because Dancer stayed soft and light for the majority of the lesson.  Eric informed me that I've come a long way since I started last fall.  Happy glow!

That said, perfection 'r' not us!  My downward transitions are still not the picture of melty and soft, my lower leg is inconsistent, and my two point is wobbly.  So if it does get nice enough to ride, Sunny and I have our homework.  I need to work on whoa in the following areas:
  • Soften my spine
  • Close my whole leg down through my ankle
  • Do NOT collapse forward
  • Keep my head/eyes up
  • Remember not to release until my horse is soft (well, my horse should actually stay soft...)
And practice two point.  Trotting (and cantering, if the ground allows), remembering to push down and back into the stirrup, closing my thighs and knees on the saddle and taking the concussion all the way down into my heels.  Oh, and also to look up and ahead, "as if [I'm] going to jump the fence at the end of the arena" - shoulders back!  Scary thought...

I think some of the leg thing is lack of strength and endurance.  I can hold position pretty well for a while, but toward the end of the lesson my legs get tired.  On Dancer, because he's so light, I can maintain it for longer, but on Sunny who's lazy and requires more leg, I get tired a lot faster and sloppy a lot quicker. More riding would help, but I guess in the meantime I need more exercise. 

With the wind-up to show season starting, Eric's starting to toss helpful pointers into the mix.  Like, "You know those parents on the rail whose kids can do no wrong?  Pretend you're one of them when you make a correction - your horse is perfect, the best horse ever, and nothing just happened."  Show poker-face means a proud and happy smile regardless, apparently - LOL!  

Smooth lesson or not, I was beat when we finished.  Fell asleep on the couch after supper, which pleased the cats.  Missed the dresses/runway on Project Runway: All Stars, too :(  Although I did manage to wake up long enough to see who got eliminated.  One great side-benefit of lesson days - I always get a great night's sleep afterwards.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I'll have more horsey news to report this week.  In the meantime, off to catch up on what all of you have been up to!

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