Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy, and that post-ride achey feeling

Eric had me warm up slowly, asking for gradually increasing collection and bend.  He wanted to see Buddy really stepping up and over underneath himself.  Buddy was reasonably amenable, but very fresh. Thankfully over the past few months I've gotten comfortable enough with his level of energy that having a wound-up ball of this particular horse under me didn't completely freak me out.

Good thing, too - the next step was sitting trot.  Buddy does NOT glide.  He's bouncy.  Very bouncy.  (C volunteered to tape me, since she was handy and had her video camera, and I'm curious to see how that looked!)  There are times being not-so-well endowed is a very good thing.  A bra with less compression, and I would have been in pain....

On the plus side, the extra time I've been taking to stretch my calves and hamstrings out ever morning is paying off.  Not only was I able to keep my heel well down and my lower leg wrapped solidly around Buddy's barrel, I could actually roll my heels up as needed and still keep the ball of my foot pressing into the stirrup.  Hooray!

Moving to working trot, I still had a lot of horse.  For the first half of the lesson it was a definite struggle to keep him from hanging on the bit and foraging ahead.  The initial few passes of working trot I was posting much too enthusiastically, which didn't help matters any.  Guess Buddy wasn't the only bouncy one!  But after a reminder to stay low and controlled, he started to settle.  Amazing what a difference being deliberate with your seat and weight makes.

Working trot in both direction Eric had me reversing continually across the circle, working on keeping Buddy's rate and frame consistent.  I think I maybe managed one (two?) direction changes without a) letting him drop a shoulder, b) having his head pop up, c) looking down, or d) slowing down or speeding up and e) forgetting to switch my diagonals... Oi.

Finally, we moved on.  Going right, Buddy is stiffer, particularly cantering.  I think additional time walking and stretching would have helped loosen him up, but eventually his gait smoothed out and committed to carrying himself for longer periods rather than hanging on my hands. 

Left is his preferred direction, but I have to be careful not to let him over-bend.  He tends to want to bulge out with his outside shoulder, so I need more outside leg than going right.  While left was better for Buddy collection-wise, it wasn't as good for me position-wise.  As usually happens, when I roll my heels up, I didn't keep enough pressure back and down into the balls of my feet, and my stirrups slipped back.  Phooey.

On the plus side, I'm getting pretty good at recovering the correct position once we're trotting again, but downward transitions end up being a complete hash of hollow horse and bouncing rider.  Not pretty.  Still, the first direction was good, so... progress.  Back to the stairs and more stretching for me!  

We called it quits after a last, semi-decent downward transition series from canter > working trot > collected walk.  Buddy was sweaty and blowing.  Likewise, me.  I walked him for twenty minutes or so and finished up with a nice long rinse with cool water.  Buddy' favorite part of the process.

Have to say, I'm not sure how Buddy felt post-ride, but I could definitely tell I'd had a workout.  I'd happily have joined him in a soak and a nap!

The day's bonus was getting to watch/tape C's lesson with her lovely bay gelding Trinity.  Her style of choice at present is western pleasure.  The whole lesson was spent on a very small circle. (In comparison, I was using either half or the whole arena with Sunny, and half with Buddy. Eric had C using one corner, about 1/3 of the half I used.)

Eric had her spend a long time warming up, isolating Trinity's shoulder and hip and asking him to move each in while staying on the same size circle.  Trinity has a tendency to attempt to spoof collection by rolling over in front, but taking baby steps with his hind feet rather than rounding up through his back and really stepping under himself.

Using this process, not only was she getting Trinity to isolate and free up each body part as she asked, improving her control, but Eric was also asking C to feel when he was using each properly.  When C ultimately asked him to lope off, he was bringing his hip over, lifting his shoulders and back, and using his whole body more correctly.

Honestly?  One of the few times I've ever seen a western pleasure lope executed in such a way that the horse is moving oh-so-slowly and actually didn't look crippled in the hind end.  Even though Trinity's feet were moving at a snail's pace, the effect was one of lift - suspension - landing.  C's lesson wasn't super long, but it was definitely educational.

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