Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekly Update

Lots of stuff to catch up on here, I took last Thursday and Friday off and was too lazy all weekend to write any of it down.  So here goes:

I had a nice trail ride last Sunday (not yesterday but a week before), this time neither of Starbuck's "big sisters" (best friend Coco and next-door neighbor Melyne) came along so I was a little worried about how she'd do.  But she really behaved quite well and only got a little out-of-control when we were trotting homewards - I think the adrenaline of trotting plus heading home plus lunchtime plus traffic was a little too exciting for her.  But nothing more challenging than a few more spooks than we had heading out, so I think we're really progressing on the trail rides.  Also without meaning to we ended up wearing parcheesi colored t-shirts, which was fun.

Rode on my own on Monday - Starbuck worked extremely well and was an absolute pleasure to ride.  We did a figure of eight exercise where we cantered around the extremeties and then transitioned to a trot on the diagonal, then back to a canter on the new lead.  It obviously wasn't easy for her but I didn't realize how hard it must have been until afterwards when I realized that she had sweat quite a bit on her hindquarters and not at all anywhere else. So I think this will be a good exercise to add to my toolbox for those days when she has energy to burn, and remember not to do too many repetitions.

Tuesday I had a normal lesson which I don't remember very well what we did, but it went tolerably well.  Wednesday I came down with the cold that ate Chicago and stayed in bed all day, but Thursday I was well enough to get out to the stable in the morning, which was fabulous since Marina had the time and inclination to give me a lunge lesson.

What an incredible lesson - after a few "laps" she told me to close my eyes and tie my reins to the saddle so they wouldn't get in the way and I did the rest of the lesson with no hands.  I've never ridden much without hands - a few canter laps with my arms up like airplane wings going "wheeee" is about the extent of my expertise so this was pretty new for me.  And boy was it a terrific experience!  Without the weight of my arms pulling my shoulders forward I very naturally reverted to the correct "heels - hips - shoulders" vertical position and found myself way more balanced.  And keeping my eyes closed really made me rely on feel alone to stay with Starbuck's movements, although I had to peek from time to time to keep from getting dizzy.  It was really liberating and I was able to "memorize" the sensation so that I can try to duplicate the same position when I'm riding the rest of the time.

Note - this is NOT the position to duplicate ;-}

So we worked on rising trot with "cycling" motion in arms and legs which is awkward at first but really helps you get in touch with the oscillating movement of the horse's back instead of just your standard up-down, sitting trot without stirrups working on letting my hips be carried forward, not backward, by Starbuck's movement and then walk and trot without stirrups letting my legs swing forward and backward once again in reaction to the horse's trunk swinging back and forth.    Finally we did some canter - now with stirrups since at this point I was a little dizzy - but once again it was wonderful to close my eyes, hold out my arms and focus only on following Starbuck's movement.  Imagine that - cantering on my crazy little filly with no hands and eyes closed!  It's the closest I've felt to being a centaur since I've grown up.

Things I learned during this lesson which are important to remember in the future:

  • I have a lot more innate balance than I thought I did.
  • The weight in my arms draws my shoulders forward.  If I keep my elbows parallel to my body, I will naturally sit up straighter than if I move them farther forward.
  • If I allow Starbuck's movement to push my hips forward naturally instead of pushing them back, she moves better and I stay in balance more easily.
  • I could tell when I was on the right diagonal at a rising trot going to the right with my eyes closed, but going to the left I wasn't able to feel it as easily.
  • Going to the left at a sitting trot, where I felt more comfortable and safer, Marina pointed out that I wasn't letting my inside hip swing forward as loosely as going to the right, where I felt a little bouncy and off-balance.

Then fairly successful lessons on Friday and Saturday - Friday we had a bit of a runaway moment where I lost my stirrups, kept jabbing Starbuck in the side when trying to recover them and finally figured out that since obviously I had been cantering around without stirrups for a while, that stopping, not getting my stirrups back, was the # 1 priority.  Another lesson for the future.  I also got a new bridle on Friday - the one I've been using is the perfect length for the hackamore but a little too short for the bits.  It was 40% off at a tack store which is closing and is real pretty - black with white stitching.  Also, this way I don't have to change from bit to hackamore every other time I ride ;-)

Saturday was kind of rainy and windy and all of the horses, not just Starbuck, were kind of antsy.  She was definitely rarin' to go - I had to throw my crop away after a few minutes - and wasn't completely comfortable with her new bridle (it has a noseband, which I've never used in the past) but I did my best to keep her attention on me and in comparison with some of the other horses, she was actually pretty calm.  Even so, I was surprised when one of the other students mentioned how well Starbuck was behaving - I guess we must be doing something right if we at least look like we have things under control.

Which brings us to yesterday, which was superwindy.  What with the wind and me not feeling like getting into a fight with Starbuck, I decided not to ride.  You gotta pick your battles.  Anyhow after cleaning her paddock we spent an hour "sharing territory" while I re-read part of an Aubrey-Maturin novel, then I longed her for a while on the scary side of the arena working on lots of transitions.  These are things I always say I'll do when I have some free time and I think it's good for her to have some exercise without me weighing her down from time to time.  Sometimes it's hard to believe that we've finally reached the point where we do much more ridden work and have to make time for groundwork - even a year ago I wasn't sure we'd ever reach that goal.  Yay progress!

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