Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I had an angel by my side

So many things in life are overdone. "My horse is an angel". "I'm so beautiful" "-insert thing here- is perfect". Most things rarely are all we talk about. Nothing is perfect. Step away from the ego. Step away from the self importance and the ethnocentrism and see-not just look, at everything that's in front of your eyes.

Lately I've been feeling shoddy. I've had trouble with people I thought were friends, and rumors. Gossip is a part of the world we live in, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept. The horses we work with on a daily basis might be lovely, but they're hardly the angels we'd like to believe.

I'll be the first to say it. Eagle is a nice horse. He's talented and flashy. But he's green, pushy, and has his bad habits. As a rider, so do I.

But last night, amidst memories of gossip, fights with my parents and a date gone wrong, something clicked.

I had a lesson with Diane-an hour private. And let me tell you, being the sole focus of an instructor with 30x60m space to work with, and all these poles? It's intimidating. And painful!

For the longest time, we were on a circle. A freakin' half an hour on a circle. And we were doing shoulders in, haunches in, counter bending and spiraling in. I'm not a rider that's good at bending-and while Eagle's fairly flexible, he'd rather not do anything that makes him work. Changing bends, outside reins and legs, hurt.
A lot.

But that wasn't even 'it'. Things started working, certainly. (Though you could always tell when I changed my leg! Eagle's tail went swish every time I did. Little brat rats me out..) Haunches in are easier for me, on principle. I can hold the shoulders on the outside circle and push his butt in.

Shoulders in, I have to hold his butt while letting his shoulders move without letting him follow through in steps. My head was hurting! But it worked.
Probably the true measure of success came when counterbending came into play. Going left is his good direction. Getting him to bend right while circling left, was not fun. Getting him to spiral in while going left while bending right.. Oh, man, that was so, so difficult.
But it worked. His head came down and his nose was out and he was really reaching through, even as he was bent around my leg. I was impressed.

I still have trouble with canter work. Not gonna lie. I have a bad habit of locking my back. I have scoliosis-but not in the way many people think of, in 'side to side'. Mine is actually front to back-so when I sit 'straight', the curve of my back is very dramatic and my butt is almost behind me. I have to work at straightening my spine, not my back, and tuck my butt under, and turn my pelvis up.

The canter work was bleh. We got a few good steps which lately is all I can erally ask for. So that all happened and we started on poles and fences.

Diane is a Polemaster. And she's evil with it.
The torment of the day last night were four poles, room for one canter stride and then a fifth pole. However, next to the pole (to the left) was a fence set up at an angle. You could go over the four poles to the fifth, or make an awkward turn to the angle.
When I say awkward? I mean very, VERY awkward.

And then other fences involved: If one stands at C in the arena, looking at the letter A, the poles are on the right quarterline. On the left quarterline there's a one-stride. The angle next to the fifth pole is a bit right of center line, and then next to the first of the four poles is an angle (oxer) set up headed towards the right wall. (Convoluted? Hopefully further explanation later helps).

So we start out trotting the poles both directions. Going to the right, she puts up a fence (three trot pole and the fourth made into a vertical). And takes it away, and just adjusts it randomly. Pole, 18', pole, pole, 2'6, pole, 2'0. You get the point. Keep Eagle thinking and paying attention to me.
During this My personal goal was to keep a consistent trot without whittling it away too much. And then stay with him/release over fences.
It worked, mostly.
Then things got evil. Going to the left, she had me trot over the first four poles-and alternately take the fifth pole, or the vertical. Awkward turn right there!!
And then we did this several times, every time after the fence we turned left, trotted, made a good walk transition, then went back to trot and did it again. (Softening his neck/responsiveness to downward transitional cues). Then she made us turn right. That was not so fun. In the corner we were jumping 'into' (room for two canter strides then sharp turn, if you didn't get the downward trot transition ASAP) there was a pile of shavings. Erg, which made turning to the right much tighter.

And then we popped over the one-stride line a few times, fairly 'meh'. Nothing spectacular, but he didn't take off at the fence which made me happy. (While tracking right)

So then we did a little course.
Go over the four trot poles, take the vertical, turn right, go all the way around to the outside line with the one-stride, and then come all the way around (still tracking right) to the oxer. You pass the four trot poles, end up at "A", come off the wall at around center line and then do a half circle to approach the oxer-and then jump, headed towards the wall (About "B") and then change rein, tracking left.

It was.. an experience. I'm still working on getting Eagle back after fences.
However, the one thing I really took away from this ride was a good half halt. It's hard for me-I have to consciously soften my back, tuck my butt and tilt my pelvis, but once I soften and relax-then I tighten my lower back in time with a hard, quick halfhalt on the outside rein. He comes down-and is balanced while doing it!

No tug of war, no bracing or leaning, no coming behind the vertical. Just a downward transition! Joy.

So, the jumping got kind of scrappy sometimes-but I stayed with him and never caught him in the mouth (one of my oooold habits. I had trouble releasing.) So for next week, I'm going to work on a consistent, forward trot that doesn't get fast or rushy, to the base of a fence.

But after the ride, I really spent time with him.
It was a long lesson, he was hot-I was tired, I just wanted to go to sleep.

But I started currying him and the hair was just rolling off... So, he and I had a grooming session. And I had untacked him and whatnot, but I didn't bother with a halter. First I had just stripped his saddle, expecting it to be a quick session, and then I'd just pull off the bridle, rub down his face and then put him away.

By the time I realized there was no such luck, Eagle had been super good just standing in the aisle. So I took off his bridle and he just stood, while I groomed him. And then when I hit "the spots" (under the mane on the right side, under the neck, where neck meets shoulder on the left side) he was just so happy.

And he actually started grooming me, in return.
It was peaceful.
I enjoyed it.

Because, for as much of a jerk as he can be, and the bad habits both of us have-at that point, I had an angel by my side.

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