Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lesson Notes: Sitting Slow

I've had the past few days off, ostensibly to use up some leftover flex days and work on my master's thesis. I have actually gotten a fair bit of writing done - above and beyond my goal - but I also took advantage of the time to schedule a lesson during the day instead of the evening.

Today's lesson was almost a jump lesson, but the fence in the outdoor needed a new board, so we headed in for dressage.

I waffled a bit about putting the stirrups back on the saddle, at least to warm up, but decided not to. I've been trying to hit up the gym more often and work on the elliptical; the little diagram on the machine says that it works all the right riding muscles. That, combined with a few weeks now of no stirrup work on the flat, meant that I felt more confident about getting through a full lesson without stirrups.

Today was about finding the right balance between forward and too quick. Tristan is naturally a very heavy, behind-the-leg kind of horse. Combine that with the fact that everything we do is a kind of negotiation and it means that I've fallen into the habit of nagging him with my leg instead of being truly effective.

So, L. had me really focus hard on what aids I was giving with my legs, when, and whether they were listened to. He got one chance to respond to an aid, and then I made him listen to it. The internet would have you believe that this solves all problems after a few minutes. Not so for Tristan; we'll have the same problem tomorrow, I'm sure. But concentrating on it at the beginning of each ride will sharpen him up.

He didn't ever listen perfectly; he's still not interested in stepping out smartly only on my say-so. But he did pick up his feet quite a bit more - too fast. Because he's generally so behind the leg, my skill set for riding a quick-moving horse is rusty, to say the least. So ultimately today's lesson became about sitting slow, using my core to get power and length into his stride rather than simple foot speed, and organizing that with all my aids.

For most of the ride we careened between almost breaking and zipping around, with occasional moments of balance in between. By the end of it, though, we'd gotten closer to where we want to be, and I could feel what I needed to be getting at.

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