Until tomorrow goes away

And another dressage lesson in the books, and man, I am getting blown away by how soft, forgiving and good Oats and I can be! It’s an excellent revelation ūüôā I want to be that rider, who has a horse with a soft mouth, who has forgiving hands…And we are getting it! Now I wish I had it years ago, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have.

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Something more like this…¬†

This is just part of the journey I guess?

We added canter to our building blocks of progress, and while the canter does require much more ‘maintenance,’ it also felt way better than it normally does. Also, with the idea of contact as a ‘living’ thing to be constantly worked on, rather than a ‘set it and forget it,’ I am actually having to¬†ride more. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? What am I doing on a horse if not riding?

Well, the truth is I like to get statue-still and mistake that for perfection. It really isn’t. A horse is a living, breathing, flowing, reacting thing, and so am I. So, no room for turning into stone, ha. Or having a grip on my contact. Ebb and flow, take and give. And my legs need to actually be used rather than just ‘there’. It’s funny it has take me until now to ride like this, but hey- progress?!!

It is humbling but I’m really enjoying how excellent Oats feels!! Yes!

Now if only our TERRIBLE weather would freaking shake out of it. Every day is either cold, or rainy, or cold, rainy and windy. I had to go back to wearing jeans, sweaters and vests and jackets. Efff…. So much for this miserable summer.

Countdown is on…

Today is my Thursday. That is what I have been repeating to myself all day/night as I was particularly dreading today (3X mtgs, last minute scrambles for events, = extremely stressful day and week).

And it’s been a rough week, just a lot of work, and found out my sister lost her job due to downsizing in a tough economy. I do feel badly for her, that really sucks and nobody wants to be in that position.

From my (relatively privileged) position of just dealing with work stress, it seems like, well what am I complaining about? It’s true. It does give me a moment of pause, of perspective, that I was missing earlier. It’s just too bad that it comes with a flavour of¬†schadenfreude.

But on the bright side, my dear Mr. Oats was in great form yesterday for my dressage lesson. I wasn’t sure how was going to be feeling- looong ass day Sunday, kind of a strenuous ride Saturday, very light ride Monday, and then a tough dressage lesson Tuesday? What’s a pony to do!

Sleepy clipped Oats

Oats after our lesson (not actually, this was him tranqed for a clip)

My dressage trainer did say she thought Oats was getting a bit fat–I protested, saying I’m pretty sure it’s just his hair right now! Though his barrel does look larger than I remember in photos…I’m riding a pony people, not a horse! HAHa.

Oats taking care of me.

Oats taking care of me.

We practiced an interesting use of high-indirect rein aids, to isolate the outside shoulder. At first I was like, why are we doing this? I don’t get this direction? And Karen said to wait it out, keep trying and see how it felt.

So, it was kind of on-and-off, and we did some of it in the canter, and I did NOT like it to the right. I said it triggered my anxiety of Oats preparing to be a shithead, even though absolutely nothing in his demeanor said he was ready to pull anything…It just felt bunchy and jumpy and weird.

We then tried it to the left, cantering, and wow…Now I understand. His canter felt¬†lovely.

His attitude was excellent, he never fussed or argued or got upset with me. Yeah!! We ended with trying it in the walk, and then straightening the horses out with the lightest touch of the reins. It felt like a hummingbird was keeping Oats in the bridle, so light, soft and beautiful. I was really glad Oats was being so awesome!

When horses aren’t ‘generous’

I had an accidental private dressage lesson on Tuesday (my riding partner was not feeling well) and had an opportunity to try out more lateral work with my trainer, Karen.

Because I have no recent photos- my newest ribbon frame!  A good way to display all those ribbons cluttering up my bedroom.

Because I have no recent photos- my newest ribbon frame! A good way to display all those ribbons cluttering up my bedroom.

I said I really hate practicing it on my own because it feels so miserable and I can’t get the ‘feel’ right (much like jumping gymnastics. SO. AWKWARD!). So, she said we’ll work on that today. Ha, and I said lateral work makes me feel crazy.

We set off on head-to-the-wall leg yields first off the left rein and man, it was so ugly. Oats was resistant, chomping on the bit, head up, then pulling, then trying to barge past my legs, and my hands. It was very uncomfortable and awkward feeling. I felt like I was trying to¬†parallel¬†park a dump truck! Forward…back up…halt..sideways! Halt…forward..back up..stop suddenly…toss head around…sideways!

GAH

It was very frustrating, and I was like, no wonder lateral work makes me feel so nuts! We then changed reins and worked on it on the right rein, and it was like I was riding an entirely different pony. A fairy pony! Light as a feather! Moved sideways like a dream! Oats moved over so quickly, he needed only the softest of corrections, he kept his head in the right place, he felt so soft, so light, and so good! It was like riding a hummingbird, haha.

I was like, mouth agape…This feels wayyy different.

So that begs the question- why the two-sided argument? Why was the first side (on the left rein) so miserable, and then the right, so good and effortless? We have a few theories, and want to test them out next lesson:

1. He had to learn what was being asked, and had it figured out by the change of rein.

2. He is naturally moving softer on the right rein, and being asked to move off my left leg is easier.

Or both?

He is a fairly clever pony, who figures out what you’re asking, and then immediately learns out to, as Karen put it, ‘economize’ on your demands…Meaning, he is smart, gets it, and then figures out a way to evade the activity.

So, lots to think about anyways. We then worked on canter, sitting the canter, getting the outside rein in on the action and ‘softening’ on the inside rein. Easier said than done, but it is making my life a lot easier when I don’t feel anxious and grabby with the inside rein–I now have the outside rein to grab with impunity! I can let the inside relax more!

I also got the BEST big trot with Oats, so big that I was having trouble posting to it! The best trot I have ever gotten with him- I am loving his new ‘go-getter’ attitude. That brings me to my title- some horses are naturally more ‘generous’ with your demands, they will¬†acquiesce a little more naturally, and forgive your mistakes.

Oats, on the other hand, is not quite so forgiving when it comes to stuff like lateral work, or me freezing up in the show ring. He does ‘tune me out’ well when I screw up, but he’s not particularly generous when I’m not asking things correctly (see all my lateral work, ugh).

The good news, is that the better I ride, the better he gets! Our partnership is slowly growing, bit by grudging bit…