Our next few rides went better and better! She is finding an uphill balance easier and earlier each ride, but she is still not where I want her to be for a great flying change, so we are keeping them on the back burner until the time is right.
Here are some notes from the past few days...
- If your horse isn’t waiting for you, your aids will not be heard.
Of course, we need to ride well all of the time, but it really is imperative that your horse is waiting for your aids in order for your great riding to be as effective as possible. As a horses training advances, the timing of the riders aids becomes more and more important. A horse that is running ahead or lagging behind the rider is not waiting.
- With a sensitive horse, relaxation cannot become more important that a good response.
This is one of my favourite take aways from my time with Imke. When you have a horse that can be tense or nervous under saddle, it can be tempting to avoid asking for certain things in order to avoid disrupting them. Relaxation is very important, but obedience is necessary in order to progress. At times, when Ms B would start to really relax into her work, she would start to slip behind my leg. When I asked her for more activity or a specific response, her reaction time was slow. This was the toughest moment. Do I accept the slow response in order to keep her relaxed? Or do I correct her and risk her becoming tense? If the tension is there, we have to work through it and show her that there can be relaxation within a good response. Avoiding the question, only postpones the issue.
- Always be ready to give your horse more responsibility.
As a perfectionist, this goes against my natural desire to fix things before they go wrong, so they never go wrong and everything remains perfect. Although I teach this at some point during nearly every lesson, I was surprised at how many times I was busted for helping too much! More on this later…
It snowed for the first time today! I was in the barn and heard something hitting the windows… it was snow! Even though I have been shivering for days, it felt pretty festive. This morning, I had an appointment with Dr Saskia Heijkants on the Flex Chair. I worked with her during my last visit and was excited that she would be at the Bartels this time as well. I have been dealing with a pinched nerve for several months now and really wanted to know if it was effecting my alignment in the saddle. I had discussed it with Imke, but you never know if you are truly straight until you are hooked up to a finely tuned computer system, right? So in I went…
We started by testing my general straightness, if the weight in my seat bones were equal and if I was centrally balanced. Thankfully, I was good to go! This was very important to me. Straightness is such an important element to riding and I cannot expect my horse to be perfect, if I am not. Next, we moved into the way that I used my aids. The Flex Chair not only measures your balance and straightness, but it can also read if you are even in the way that you lower each seat bone or apply thigh pressure against the saddle. Dr Heijkants is not only a physical therapist, but she is also a rider, so she understands the way that aids are applied. She also has a very good eye! On the machine, it showed that I was dropping my right and left seat bones to the same degree and with the same weight, but when she watched my hips, she noticed that I was actually using them ever so slightly unique each direction. One hip was smooth and direct, but the other was a bit guarded and would not drop straight into position, it sort of “rounded” into its position. I was able to keep them even in regards to what I was giving to the horse, but I was not getting there in a perfectly even way. She directed me to stretch both hips out more when my nerve is acting up and to avoid guarding with the hip when I am nervous that it may hurt. It was a great session and I was very excited to take this into my next ride.
Later that evening, I had a lesson scheduled with Mischa Koot. I loved my ride with Mischa in May and was really excited to ride Ms B with her tonight. This ride was scheduled in the back indoor, which is one of the most beautiful indoor arenas I have ever seen….
We worked in collected trot full arena. Immediately before each corner, I rode a transition into collected walk and rode the inside hind deep into the corner. As soon as she was back against the new wall, I rode a quick transition into collected trot. Every element of this exercise was to be ridden very purposeful. The transition into collected walk had to be ridden forward. This transition had to be crisp, but not abrupt (we repeated it many times!). The goal was that she continued her energy throughout the corner and did not stop and start with the energy as I asked for transitions and a lateral response. The purpose behind riding her inner hind leg into the corner was to place it under her centre of gravity, so that she was ready for a quick, but well balanced transition back into collected trot. As soon as she relaxed into the exercise, each transition became more consistent and her entire way of going was improved. All of her energy was waiting for me and because she was not behind me or in front of me, we were able to move in unison and it was totally fabulous!
During our break, we talked a bit about her changes. I explained to Mischa what we had been working towards up to this point and she was right on board. She asked me to ride a few walk - canter - walk transitions and they were successful, but when she asked me how much I was helping her during the transitions and it hit me that I really was helping her a lot. In order for her to take on more responsibility within these transitions, we had to find the weak spots and improve them.
In collected canter, we asked her to compress more and more, similar to the preparation for a transition into walk and as soon as she lost her balance, we refreshed her activity and then brought her back into collection. Each time I rode through the transition, I expected her to maintain better activity in the canter leading up to the transition and better self carriage in the transition. It was hard work for her, but she really stepped up to the challenge. She made some mistakes, but Mischa was very quick to forget the mistakes and praise her efforts. The more we adjusted the canter, the better she sat on her hind leg and her canter became very expressive and uphill. It was a great feeling!
Towards the end of the ride, I started to get the feeling that I had been looking for before I asked her for a flying change. Tomorrow just may be the big day…