It's been a while-nearly three weeks-since I've updated and, for all intents and purposes, Eagle is still the same phenomenal horse that I wrote about last. I don't understand it and I'm waiting for his brain transplant to wear of shortly.
However while it lasts, I will definitely be enjoying it!
I'm not really quite certain where to start, to be strictly honest. We've had a phenomenal lesson last week and I think the really notable thing is that I've been riding him bareback.
Last Wednesday I had a fantastic lesson. We started out with just tracking forward, regardless of where his head was. I have a bad habit of getting 'handsy'. I was taught a very long time ago to pretend to whisk eggs *once in a while* to play with the bit and encourage them to soften on it. However, I've come into the habit of doing it far too frequently.
So instead of working for the frame, we've been working for the trot and the consistent contact. Fancy that, when I have constant contact and don't throw away the reins and just follow his face instead of pull on it (or abandon it) he comes down. It takes longer and it isn't "instant gratification" but it feels truer. He's much looser through his back when he comes down that way.
Eventually, we started jumping. As per the week before, he's trotting nicely over things. There was even an instance where he didn't even jump the fence-he trotted over it. This, coming from the horse that will jump ground poles and cavaletti if you give him the opportunity, is huge. That and I'm starting to not know when to leave for fences. Previously it was obvious that he'd push me out of the saddle. Now, though, I actually have to work to get up and off his back!
Let me tell you, my legs are definitely feeling it.
Probably one of the biggest things of last week though was that he was adjustable through lines. After warming up over verticals we were going through a four stride line-and we had to chip to get a good space! He's not landing and leaving long, he's coming back. I'm almost collecting him too much. There are points where I almost have to push him forward to lengthen instead of collectcollectcollect. It's absolutely astounding.
We've finally graduated from 2'0 verticals and X's! And the occasional line/gymnastic/angle. We actually did a course. It was phenomenal. We never ran off at or away from fences. He was in my hand the entire time and I actually could let him have his head instead of constantly battling him for a rhythm. Whether it's the weather, or something has finally clicked, Eagle was fantastic. I'm hoping that tomorrow he'll be just as good.
The day after I saw my Mom ride him in her lesson-and perhaps it is slightly cruel of me, but I was perversely pleased that she was having some difficulty riding him. I suppose that, at the end of the day, Eagle is still "My horse". Per Diane, when I came he started ignoring her more (I could tell that every time he was passing me he wanted to stop) but she isn't doing too poorly. He does have a bit of a fixation with the wall and she's not always able to catch him before he dives into it, but he's not too adverse to her riding.
Actually, for a woman whose only been riding for the past three months (for the first time in 30-odd years) my Mom is really not doing badly at all. This upcoming thursday she canters him for the first time. I may be tempted to put in a bit more of a bit so she has the brakes, but I'll talk to my instructor for that. He isn't keen on stopping, even with me-though my Mom really doesn't get rattled when he doesn't stop so I suppose the slow-twist D ought to be fine.
Regardless, last thursday she rode and I hopped on and cantered him a bit to stretch his legs.
Friday, Diane rode him and he was phenomenal. One of these days I'm going to get some video of it. My riding him is laughable at best in comparison to her. (Though I have noticed she has the same problem my mother does-he gives her trouble when I'm around and watching. I suppose this means I should try to sneak past my horse from now on...)
Saturday was interesting. I wasn't going to ride him originally but he had been turned out in the grass earlier (had just come off it-it was too buggy) so I didn't really want to pitch him out there again. At the same time, I'm a lazy sort and tacking him up didn't sound appealing, either.
I've been riding him bareback from time to time, but almost always after I've exercised him before. Think of it as a 'final five minutes of trot and then cool down' if you would. However, Saturday I got on him without such preliminaries. I was expecting a bit of a bouncy ride-Eagle gets very forward when you first start out.
Though, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he surprised me. The beginning was a bit rough-he wanted to keep his head up which made his spine markedly uncomfortable, but once we 'discussed' his options, he really was traveling very nicely. My problem with bareback is that because I do feel so insecure in my balance, I typically crank his nose into his chest to feel like I'm in 'control'. (Hah!)
Saturday though I was really focusing on keeping my arms long and infront of me with shorter reins. Unsurprisingly, the horse appreciated it. (he's no one's fool, afterall.) After about twenty five minutes (my legs were shaking!) of trot work I really came to the conclusion that I had no excuse not to canter. I do not ride bareback frequently-I never have. In all my years of riding (about thirteen) I have had maybe ten serious rides bareback that had w/t/c-and all of those beyond Eagle, were on a little mare who I had gotten so used to me that she'd stop on command.
Cantering Eagle with a saddle can be precarious at best. At worst, it's a freight-train disaster of monumental proportions. It's all about the balance and keeping him steady. His right lead is, currently, less comfortable than is left so I started out in that direction. Picked him up on a circle and got a beautiful upward transition. Only did a few circles before we stopped (It was MUCH bouncier than I wish it had been) but he didn't protest by raising his head which is huge.
He normally goes in a standing martingale just to remind him that head =up is not okay. Riding him without it, he actually didn't bring his head up too frequently.
The left was beautiful! We had a gorgeous collected canter that just kept me in the seat (though initially I was reminded as to exactly how big his step is! When you go up and come down four inches behind where you started, you begin to realize that..yes, this is a big horse. And yes, he goes forward very well!). It was, all in all, a very successful day.
So those are my triumphs. Hopefully my lesson tomorrow will continue in the same vein!