Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mid-week Ride. It Happened.

Just after I was having a good ol’ pity fest over being a weekend rider, I rode yesterday (Wednesday). There’s no photographic evidence, but I swear it happened! And it was epic. Well, being able to ride was, the ride itself not so much…

Copper is super fresh still; there’s a ton of green spring grass and clover coming up, so he’s all “Weeeeeee! Running!” and I’m all “Gah! Slow down! Can’t we have one ride where we’re not bolting around every two minutes without having to walk the entire time??”

Seriously. He’s a hard horse to ride. You have to work for every stride, every minute you are on his back. Not that he is spooky or silly, it’s more like, if you are not constantly working on releasing his tension or your own tension, you won’t get any softness with him. Not a single bit.

He can be soft, but you have to work *exceptionally* hard for it.

It’s much too easy to disintegrate into a pulling match with him. He is all too ready to tense up if you so much as twitch a hair out of a soft, correct position, and then he takes off, and you tense up, and he tenses up even more…. And there you have it. It’s a war between horse and rider. Nasty.

I try like anything to avoid this, but it still happens occasionally. Like yesterday. We started off ok, had a normal walk warm up and some good walk-trot-walk transitions.

I like to ride without stirrups for the first ten minutes or so, but I am not sure that that was helpful for Copper yesterday. As soon as I picked up my stirrups I noticed he had really stiff shoulders, and a tight back behind his withers.

So I spent the next half an hour trying to get him to release his back while trotting. We did the most awful spiral-in circles; no geometry or even full circling to speak of. We went up, we went down, I tried to post from my hips but couldn’t even get my butt out of the saddle?? I did the head flexion trick, but that only loosened his shoulders for a short while, and not his back, so he was tight again almost straight away.

We even did leg yields successfully! And yes, I was right. He did only need a seat aid, not a leg aid as well. D’oh. But we’re leg yielding at a trot now, yay! 

Too bad the yielding only activated his hindquarters, but still did not loosen his back. Ugh. So frustrating. He can be tense and work through his butt. He is the master at using all different parts of his body while still holding tension and blocking in others. 

His back is a tricky place to release. I’m not even sure how I got it to relax in the end, but something clicked. I did a lot of reaching forwards with the inside rein to allow a place of softness, and I tried dropping my shoulders down and back to release that muscle between my shoulder blades, (under my bra strap). I also blew out through my mouth and concentrated on releasing any tension in my seat.

So like I said, something- I don’t what- clicked. He lifted his back, and suddenly I could post and sit to his trot comfortably!  He was blowing and snorting, and his back was swinging and soft. Best of all, his gait was also rhythmical and cadenced. We did walk-trot transitions and it was still soft and relaxed. 

Finally, I had some quality trotting from him.  I don’t know how we got there, but I’m going to keep trying to do it again and again – without the battling in between!

He’s so tricky to figure out. I just hope I’m actually improving him and myself, and not muddling the both of us up. I miss having lessons.

I suppose I just have to keep on trying to listen to his responses in the meantime. One thing is for sure, he’s not at all shy about letting me know when I have it wrong!

See ya,


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