Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lesson report!

I started off with an experiment: longed him for about 10 minutes, w-t-c both ways. He was a perfect gentleman about it, which was a huge relief given it's been 18+ months since he was last longed, and I always have flashbacks to early days when I longe him. (Because you haven't lived until your horse has reared, struck out at you, landed, bolted, and dragged you across the ring on your face as you frantically try to dig the longe line out of the skin of your hand...)

He was in fact well-behaved enough to sometimes respond to half-halts by stretching into the bit, which is an encouraging and heartening new development since the last time he was longed. Overall, I think the longing accomplished its goal: warm him up a little bit, loosen him up, etc. And he did indeed start out much MUCH more supple than on Saturday. Which is not saying a whole lot: the changing temps and cold snaps have regressed us about 6 weeks at least in that department. This too shall pass, I suppose.

In the meantime, we focused a lot a LOT on not getting into fights with him. It's one of those lessons I need to re-learn every couple of weeks, it seems. He is a past master at tightening and turning into a brick wall and ignoring any semblance of softness I try to create with the bit. L. worked very very hard on me to keep my elbows soft, my shoulders heavy, my core engaged so that I could simply sit securely in my seat and guide him firmly but not get caught up in his drama. Every single time we started to get pissed off at each other, and flail stiffly through a turn, L. called out for me to soften my elbows, and I did, and he gave with a disgusted huff. So.

I also dropped stirrups for about the last 15 minutes and worked really, really hard on bringing him up through my seat in the sitting trot, and keeping weight through my outside seatbone and leg in the canter and transitions. HARD. But really rewarding, and I kind of love feeling my abs and core engage like that through the sitting trot. I'm even much less sore than I had imagined I would be!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Okay, new year, new habits, right?

Saturday's ride: not so good. He came out tight and less than enthused. We had no bend to speak of and I couldn't keep him consistently in the bridle. Winter blahs all around, and I got a little peeved at him and his impression of a brick wall. Kept him going longer than I should have - forward was for once not really an issue, but any kind of suppleness was. He was breathing pretty hard when we finished, and took quite some time to walk out. On the one hand: definitely too long. On the other hand: building wind and valuable lessons about who decides when and how we work. Still, I would've liked to learn those lessons in a session that was actually productive.

Today, we just went out for a hack, which turned out to be a great decision. (I'm trying hard to fix, or really upgrade, my decision making on horseback.) He was tight and sore for the first 10 minutes or so, and then started swinging and reaching. I rode in jump tack, and just kept the lightest of possible touches on his mouth, asking him to soften his jaw occasionally, bend a bit for me, move away from a leg here and there. We had a couple of very short trots on the trails asking him to stretch, which he did beautifully, and then some VERY nice circles in the back field, reaching for the bit and springing through from behind.

It figures too that after such an angsty post as my last one, today at the Flatlands party I was awarded most improved boarder. :) T. said that the progress we have made as a horse/rider pair was fantastic, and that you wouldn't recognize Tris and me now if you put us beside our work of a year ago. So that was a really nice ego boost!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am struggling a little bit with mom guilt.

Intellectually, I can look at it like this: I was running on fumes at the end of the fall semester. The last three weeks have been a welcome recharge of my batteries, with time to have dinner with friends, indulge in a bit of television watching, crochet more than I have in months, and generally accomplish things without feeling a sword blade at the back of my neck. I am comfortable in my budget and write off his expenses without a second thought as long as I economize like crazy in the rest of my life - which I'm used to.

He's going better than he ever has before, he's happy and relaxed and well cared-for. He will be those last things regardless of how often he sees me.

Emotionally: I am riding three days a week max, and feeling like I'm letting my horse down. I'm guilty about the money I spend on him, which I could be saving for a mortgage, or using to finish grad school with no debt. I feel that to justify that money and to do right by him I should see him more often, should put more into making our dressage better. There are many dedicated, accomplished riders in my life that I admire tremendously, and though I can on one level acknowledge that I have many other responsibilities in my life and cannot make my riding and Tristan's improvement as a riding horse my priority - I still think I ought to do better. I am a competitive and driven person. It's in my nature to always think I can do better.

This, too, shall pass, but a strong wave of it was just triggered by making the decision to meet my undergrad advisor - one of my favorite people in the whole world, who I haven't seen for over a year - for coffee tonight instead of heading down to ride.

I wish...many things. I wish the barn were closer and I could make a trip to ride in 2 hours instead of 5. I wish I were in Vermont where I could spend less money on him - I wish I were at the place in my life where I could keep him in backyard.

Anyway. Here's to 2011. I'm going to try to post more about our rides, in the hopes of making the time that we have resonate more.