The word of the day Sunday was BEND. We had none the last few times I rode on my own and I was growing frustrated trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Turns out a lot. Go figure.
We stuck to the near end of the arena, using my ground pole chute from a few days before as the farthest point. It is much easier to keep Gem contained in a smaller space than let her gain speed in the arena at large. The lesson was a tale of the bi polar horse. The first 30 minutes Gem was lazy. Like walking as slow as physically possible while still doing what I asked lazy. It was a nice change of pace and allowed me to get some good work in.
First Trainer had me ride a large rectangle working on keeping Gem straight until the turn and then creating the bend in the turn while quickly regaining the straightness after. The teaching point here was that you can’t work on bend if you are never straight in the first place. I had to work on keeping her between my aides on the lines I chose and needed to be more deliberate in my path. It wasn’t good enough to get from A to B. I had to get there on an exact path that I planned in advance and then turn exactly where I wanted.
From there we added in a circle using my chute to anchor the circle at 20 m. Trainer immediately called me out for over compensating with my upper body as I tried to create the bend for Gem by twisting like a tornado. Not useful. Instead I was to have just enough bend in my shoulders to allow me to look 1/4 of the circle ahead at all times and just enough in my waist to shift my weight in the saddle to cue Gem to bend around the inside leg.
Since Gem was being lazy, she actually accepted my lower leg on her side pushing her out into my outside rein. It felt delicious. Is that a word I can use when describing riding? Typically any inside leg results in going faster, so I have to use it judiciously. However, without the proper aides our circle tends to turn into a spiral getting ever smaller as I can’t push her out with my inside leg and catch her with the outside rein. Sunday however I could at least for a few small steps at a time and it created a lovely geometry.
The biggest learning point in the first half was to be more deliberate with my path, my turns and in riding in general. I tend to not hold myself as firm when riding and I need to be greedy with everything.
Then the second half happened and Gem woke up and got angry that I was still asking her to work when…gasp..she began to sweat. Mare hates the sweat. As soon as she starts, she shuts down and quits. Silly Princess.
We had just taken a short walk break where I got nailed for throwing her away and not continuing to ride (oops!) and took the trot back up when my nice, calm and quiet mare became speed demon. Sigh. The next 30 minutes were then spent getting her head screwed back on and paying attention.
When the circle became too much for her and all we were doing was zooming around throwing in half halts every 2 steps, half of which were being ignored, Trainer had me go back out on the rectangle adding in a 10 meter circle at each corner with the goal being to maintain the pace and not fall into it. We were semi capable of this, but still I heard the tell tale “slow down, slower” from Trainer about half a million times.
Still, there were good things to come out of the second half. First, I didn’t give up. Sometimes when Gem is like this my head shuts down and I get tense, braced and want to get off and cry in the corner. Sunday though I actually laughed at her. I knew she was tired and that this was getting hard for her which is why she acted out however I also knew that if she just calmed the heck down and did what I asked it would all be over and she could go chill out int he pasture again. The biggest teaching point here was that I needed to be patiently persistent in what I wanted. Gem could act out all she wanted but she darn well better stay on my circle or rectangle or whatever and maintain the bend. I had to keep asking and asking and asking until she realized I wasn’t going to go away ever and she had just better cave and do the thing.
By the end of the hour, Gem was pretty sweaty and I was really happy with all I had driven into my head. Basically it boils down to me holding both of us more responsible to getting the work done. No more letting her get away with pushing out on the circle or falling in. I need to be firmer about exactly where I want her to be at all times while actively working and that is a big shift from what I have always done.
With endurance, Gem and I had come to an understanding. She was in charge of her feet and tackling the trail in the safest and most efficient way possible and I was in charge of setting the pace. If she needed to canter a certain section, as long as our pace didn’t change, she could. I didn’t mess with her very much and she didn’t challenge my sense of direction or pace requirements. But this is a whole new ball game and I need to get more firm with every part of her. Our path is just as important as the speed in which we get there now and it is a big mental change for me.