There’s Riding…

April 3, 2009 at 9:11 am 2 comments

… and then there’s riding

The last few days of riding has been totally different.  Suddenly, with a goal in mind, I’m actually being much more particular, and working much harder.  Up until this point, my main goal has been “happy, relaxed horse who is easy to ride.”  Now, the goals are getting much more specific- if I’m going to go ride around an XC and jumper course, I need a good canter, and a lot of practice.  I admit to not being too worried about the dressage thing- at that level, I’m mostly concerned about not forgetting a test, but at the same time, there is always improvement to be made.

Wednesday, there were some jumps set up in the indoor, so I made a lot of use of them.  After warming up and really concentrating on keeping my elbows at my sides, and holding a consistent contact (the two go directly together in my mind), I began to work over them a little bit.  On one side of the ring, there was a seven stride line set up, that we worked through very easily in both directions.  On the other side of the ring there was just a single vertical, set very conveniently next to the large mirrors.

After trotting everything, and trotting into the line and cantering out, I picked up the canter and started cantering fences.  At first I found myself a little frustrated, we were biffing the jumps almost every time.  Fortunately I was well aware of NOT jumping ahead and gunning for the long spot, so the biffs were mostly of the chip ‘n’ peck variety.  I don’t want it to sound like I’m obsessed with the perfect spot- but to me the biffing is a direct indication that we do not have the right canter.  I kept trying to improve it- leg, half halt, sit up, wait, but it took a while to get rolling.   The jumps are helpful in that it’s hard for me to know when it’s right without some sort of visual aid or test.  What sometimes feels really good when riding on the flat is still not quite right for jumping. 

When it did, though, it was fantastic.  We jumped the single vertical twice out of a canter I call the “toothpaste” canter.  It’s hard to explain, but it feels like you’re squeezing the horse through your legs and up- it’s more elastic than normal, it feels uphill, and you feel a building of energy without a buildup of speed.  I love that canter, and once we acheived it, found the jump easily enough that I was able to count down the approach from several strides out.  So we quit with that.

Of course, now the challenge is to get that canter all the time, but baby steps 🙂

Last night was super fun, because Allie was there to provide some eyes on the ground.  Also, she speaks my language, having also done a fair amount of hunter type showing.  My warm up was pretty abysmal.  Klondike felt like a slug, and was having none of this “moving forward off the leg” business.  I wanted to really concentrate on keeping consistent contact (elbows at your sides, make the elbows heavy, be that puppet guy from the Sally Swift book), but it was becoming impossible with Klondike barely maintaining forward for more than five strides at a time. 

I was getting exhausted, and frustrated- I hate using my whip for more than taps to indicate small signals, but found myself having flashbacks to the pony I rode in shortstirrup.  I was having to back up my leg constantly, so everything else was suffering.

So we brought out the spurs. 

Klondike was not pleased.  But still, a few times I had to use the crop, even with said spurs.  But once we got going, we had a whole new Klondike.  With forward much more established, suddenly everything was much easier, and I could think about sitting tall, about using more inside leg, and about keeping my hands still and not slipping the reins.

Allie showed me a neat trick that involves sort of weaving the rein through other fingers, so that you maintain a constant rein length and learn what that feels like.  While I would not recommend doing such things regularly, or on a super-green horse or one who pulls, it was enormously helpful for us.  For a while I think we were feeding off each other in the contact department.  He was searching around with his head, which got me busier with my hands, which turned into a small circle of incorrectness.  Not a huge spiral of doom, or anything, but finding ways to keep my hands still and reins perfectly constant makes everything light years better.

Klondike will get today off, and hopefully Saturday he will get to go on a mosey, if I have the time.  Sunday, we will be going schooling at a local riding park that has some nice XC stuff.  I am sure pictures will follow.

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I’m baaaaack! Claritin and Cross Country

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ashlea  |  April 3, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Your mentioning Sally Swift reminded me…she passed away yesterday after a couple months of illness. Check out http://centeredriding.org/ for more info.

    Ashlea and Splash

    Reply
    • 2. carrotplease  |  April 3, 2009 at 4:08 pm

      Yeah, I heard that yesterday, and was one of the reasons I had her on the brain. There’s a great thread on Chronicle of the Horse about her- everyone remembering the specific images and techniques they use most… it seems to me that very few teachers have had such a profound effect on so many people :’)

      Reply

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