Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Live like you're never living twice

Saturday I had an 'interesting' ride. There were some groundbreaking moments, and then there were things that frustrated me to the utmost.
First, let it be said: From saturday/today's rides, Eagle is definitely going in a margingale. Running martingale, which means the breastplate which means more tack (and more buckles). Ugh, I loathe them. I've been using the standing because it's so much less of a pain but.. well, really. I can't event in it, blahblahblah. So. Pony faces a martingale again. Whoppee.

Anyway. Saturday:
The good.
Eagle cantered through poles.

Pause for emphasis.
He cantered over poles. Not just one pole, not two. Five poles spaced nine feet apart. And he cantered through them.
And, well, trotted, too. But as awesome as that is, the canter is more significant. I've never been able to canter him through poles. Going over one pole is hazardous, doing two poles to mark a stride length is a pain and cantering through poles you trot through?
Hell no.

I got on and my stirrups were ridiculously short. Mother had been in my saddle. So we had our typical mounting three minute 'moment', I got in and realized stirrups were sooo short. (five holes too high). A little girl, Sam, came in at that point so I hopped off and helped her with her horse-instead of just fixing my stirrups in the saddle-and then fixed my crap.
And got back on. The second time at the block, eagle was a rock. I was very happy about that.

Soo, random riding ensued. We were in the polo barn, and there were six of us-four girls around 15/16, Sam-who is 12(?) and me.
I feel old. So old.

Anyway, the four girls were being obnoxious. Cutting people off, riding up our asses, and passing too close. Eagle's been a bit wiggy about passing head on, so I can pretty much say it was not appreciated.
Typical Elle temper ensued after they cut right infront of Sam and her horse and then went to a walk (she was doing extended trot-work). I was pissed.

There's something to be said about riding a big horse with a (typically) adjustable stride at the trot. The girl started trotting again, and I pulled up next to her. They do it to eachother (and me) where they'll just stay right next to you and talk.
I chatted her up.
And got her caught in the corner.

"So, how's it going?" "Good? Glad to hear it. Good to see that your horse is so adept at stopping, but you might want to, you know, get your eyes checked." "Why? Oh, you must have missed it. The multiple times of passing too close, being reckless and overall, thoughtless and disrespectful to others riding."

Yeah. The sickeningly sweet voice that just drips venom is my specialty. And her horse got caught in the corner, and Eagle was rock solid. I was proud of him-sometimes he gets antsy in close proximity to other horses.

So, adolescent scolding nonwithstanding (and aforementioned girls refrained from getting in our space at that point-the 'invisible line' was drawn in the arena. They had their half. Sam and I had ours.) Eagle was a rock star.

And I started going over the trot poles both directions. He's notoriously bad at them-his head comes up, he hollows out, wiggles, or just charges/canters through them.
But, for the most part, in the span of about an hour and a half of riding, there might have been one or two moments where he tried to rush them. Otherwise, his nose came down and out and he was really reaching up and under himself. I was estatic. I don't know where that horse came from, but I love him.
Canter ensues.

(The bad).
We start to the right. I got good transitions-the key, it seems, is to sit the trot. It's a 'no, duh' moment for most people. However, Eagle's never been a horse that needed it, or so I thought. I've always just sat a step and touched and off we went. However, sitting the trot for a fourth or so of a circle before the canter transition.
He really does come up smoothly, but to the right in particular, he just disintigrates so quickly. Falls apart.
And then I half halt (hard) on the outside and the head goes FLIPFLIPFLIP.

The Amazing.
Left canter was better, we were better balanced.
However, what was really amazing was that, in both directions over poles he settled right down (no headflippy) and again, came up under himself.
He let me rebalance himself. It was amazing. I was thrilled. Very, very good.

And let me say, there was no "Ugly". Everything was very productive and work-manlike, albeit some of it was rather horrific to experience.

He's not bending well. At all. I either get his front, or his butt but I can't get all of it. The fact that he's totally ignoring my left leg doesn't help.

However, I did do a little bit of jumping. There was a small vertical that I used as my personal playground. Jumped it at an angle, straight on, jump & stop and turn around and jump again. My problem with fences is that I tend to collect him too much so he launches himself over a fence in an ugly fashion.

He was going over it fine to the left, but to the right he was just an ass. So, I went allll the way down to the other end of the arena and trotted over the poles-and kept going straight to the fence, keeping the rhythm of the trot from the poles in mind for over the fence.
It worked!

Canter transitions have been tuned. Canter in and of itself is not.
Fence debacle is working itself out, as is stopping after. I'm trying to work on getting him to not jockey me around/take off on the backsides of fences. It's super obnoxious.

But you know? We're getting there. That's really what matters. You win some and you lose some, but I can't regret my losses because really, they're teaching me more than success ever could have.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hope's lost affections never hurt the brave

Yesterday was a mess. Literally. Pony was muddy, pony was also a wreck under saddle. After an 'educational' lesson, it was a bit of a letdown. I think maybe I was expecting too much of him-and undoubtably, myself. Sore, stiff and tired, it was pretty messy.
Disspirited to say in the least. And that I tried to ride with a dressage whip made it even more majikalfuntime. Eagle, for the record, and crops don't mix well. Traditionally, it's just 'no'. Don't even go there.

And so I was thinking I'd smarten him off my leg and use it to help in bending and moving off my leg. Sigh. He moved off my leg, alright. With his nose in the air, locked against the bit and just HAULING forward.


Today was mom's lesson though. I was sulking about, not really wanting to go and let her (and Diane) see the trainwreck-to-be. Mom takes lessons with Diane, incidentally. But I eventually dragged myself out to the barn and..magic!

My horse was already groomed for me. :D I could get used to that, I think. Most of my tack was already downstairs, too. So I just had to grab saddle, girth & pads and then tack up and I was set to go. I had been bracing myself for another hour-long demuddifying session.
Didn't happen! I was thrilled.

My conscious experiment today was to ride without a standing martingale. My first show of the season will be a dressage show at the end of April (Gack. I'm going to hell...) and I know that martingales are a nono. So I took it off.
Normally (Or previously) I hadn't bothered because he didn't need one. I fell into the habit at school when they were all "MUST.USE.KTHNX". and then after, he was being head-flippy-obnoxious at the canter.

So. I thought I'd give him a chance.

And contrary to expectation (Murphy's law..) he was actually pretty good. My main focus today was half-halts. I've always botched them. I tend to pull when I'm 'up' instead of sitting (at the trot) so I brace my back and lock and pull.
I was talking to myself "Up, down, up, down" and only halfhalting-one single, fast, HARD halfhalt out to my hip, when I needed one, at the time I said 'down'.

It worked.
Surprise surprise.

We also got much better trot-work for that. The one thing based on that that I'll have to work on is to keep contact on the inside rein even as I halfhalt with the outside.
Also: Need to work on keeping him from the wall. Little git keeps having a love affair with it, and I will not tolerate being rubbed against a wall!
Well. No, not really. He just drifts left. And doesn't respond to the left leg well. (Might re-try dressage whip thing once I get brave enough. Ergh.)

But the true triump today was a canter. Cantering to the right was blech. We just barely got everything settled then I went "K, good, we'll stop there." His head was flippy and up and obnoxious. I hate flippy heads.


Do not poke your nose up in the air to avoid my halfhalt, you little jackass. Don't you dare.

So I was frustrated with that (and at the time was the only person in the ring. Yay funtime!)

And then I did some trotwork again (I always try to have time between canter work because Eagle has as "CANTER? YAY! WE CANTERED ONCE. NOW WE'LL JUST CANTER FROM NOW ON THNX." mentality) and worked on downward (and upward) transitions with those halfhalts.
I was looking for smooth downward transitions that made him step light in front and rock back on his butt. Not just crashing onto his face. And do it instantly, not just get a "I'll think about it. In another 15m, k?". Upward transitions, I'm trying to keep smooth and calm-not just 'launching' into a trot.

So we get to the left lead canter. Decent transition. Really fast, starting to get unbalanced and blah.
I keep turning him. Not on a circle but I Let him go straight as long as he was being good and then would turn and halfhalt him at the top of the arc-hard, fast to the outside hip and rocked him back onto his butt.
I also was soft in my legs, not pinching with my knee but holding with my thigh and upper calf. And just softened my back.

It was there. I was so happy! Even better, Diane and Mum both saw it. That was my true 'success'.

And then downward transition (and it was right when I asked for it with the halfhalt, and balanced!) and then we did some stretchy trot circles-working him down and out, loose in his back while coming down into the bridle without coming back with his nose.

Then I proceeded to hop off and let mom get on to cool him down.
He needed a little 'reminder' at the block-he's good for me, for the most part, now. But Mom's a new basket of beans. Bah, humbug.

He's also starting to get reluctant walking up to the block. So I might just start walking him there, standing, give treats, walk away.. Repeat. And then get on.
I don't like his reluctance to move forward next to it. Sigh.

So turned him around in circles, and held him over for mom. He tried to walk off the isntant she got on (something he's finally stopped doing to me). I made him back up. And then she just walked with him.

"Mommy" complex showed up. He kept turning back towards me, and she let him. It's kind of cute, he looks to me for reassurance and to know that it's 'okay'.
Funny: She asked me "Is his walk always that big?"

He was stepping over a bit-maybe an inch or two.
His normal is four+ inches. I told her she was holding him back, actually, because she was tight.
Made her talk to him (About how ridiculous I was being, sigh.) and that really relaxed her and got her laughing.
And he started stepping through completely.
It was nice.

Mom untacked, cooled off and groomed.
My horse?
We're getting there. I just have to keep going forward. No room for "Should have done"s.
No use looking back.