Having the right equipment makes life easier.
I remember back in my competitive whitewater days, I had a very old, very well travelled closed canoe that I purchased for $75 and fondly named Fugly. That thing was old school and even after spending many a summer evening covered in resin and fiberglass, that boat never did fit me right.
Then one day my coach convinced me to stop being a tight wad with my money and buy a boat better suited. My eyes were set on the Junior National Championships for a second year and the thought of showing up with Fugly again wasn’t appealing. We found my Norma Jean, a smaller, newer and more streamlined vessel that I still have to this day.
The first time I took her in the water it was like coming home. All my technical flaws didn’t magically go away, but some did and it was easier to execute everything. My turns between the gates was quicker and better timed. Upstream gates were more easily ducked under saving precious seconds. She cut through the water cleaner.
It was my first lesson in making sure your equipment is the best suited for your own body type and athletic style in your chosen sport.
Last night I threw the Wexford up on Eeyore. For a brief moment I debated riding in the Bates since it had been nearly 10 days since I last rode him and after that much time he is usually pretty expressive. Then I thought that would be the perfect time to test this thing out and see how secure it really was. Sure, it may leave a few questions as to his comfort but by now I’m pretty familiar with his attitude and figured I could tell the difference between “I always assume I’m fully retired after any time off at all and now I’m angry that I’m back to work” and “Ouch! This is pinching me! Take it off!”
The ride went about as expected. He started off pretty amenable to life, coasting around at the walk and trying to look at anything and everything that would avoid having to pay attention to my requests up on him. Typical Eeyore stuff.
What I did notice right off the bat was that my lateral aides were not only easier to use but were also getting through to him louder and clearer. My legs naturally dangled straight down and I wasn’t fighting the need to constantly bring them back to use them. I always tend more toward my legs being forward and braced so it wasn’t necessarily a Bates issues but it also wasn’t being corrected in it either. In the Wexford I never had to remind myself to bring my leg back under me.
In fact, at the walk at least, he gave me some of the best bend on a 20 m circle to date.
Until he realized this was going to be work and flipped me the bird that is. I have his number on that one though. Typically I will let him canter. A lot of times once he gets moving and gets his initial ADD knocked out of him he settles into “OMG I’m going to die! Can’t breathe. Can’t move” mode and life gets good again. Not always though. Yesterday he needed more of a reminder of who is boss here so after we careened around a while fighting each other, I made him do rapid fire transitions between walk, halt and trot randomly and allowing only 3-5 steps in each before changing.
That got his attention real fast and soon enough he was once again pliable. He never fully settled but again it had been 10 days and I gave him some leeway there.
What I loved though was that in the Wexford my posture was naturally and easily more vertical. The Bates always has me slightly forward which made getting out of the tack to jump easy but made things like sitting the canter really hard. Plus I naturally tend to tilt forward in a defensive fetal position so it isn’t necessarily the fault of the Bates but again it wasn’t helping either.
In the Wexford, my legs hung down and my back sat straight. In fact, I was so vertical I worried I wouldn’t be able to get out of the tack to jump. When we did canter, I wasn’t magically relaxed and flowing with him but I also wasn’t posting and fighting to just get my butt down and in the seat either. I was connected and being connected allowed him to lift his front end up and slow down so I wasn’t feeling like we were going nowhere very fast.
I did manage to pop him over a few jumps and liked how I could follow him better to the base and didn’t feel like I was already half way up his neck before take off. It wasn’t hard to get out of the tack either.
Overall, I’m as in love as I remember from my trial last fall. The structure suits my anatomy and helps ease some of my natural flaws and tendencies without creating new issues. I’m not all of a sudden a Grand Prix rider but I’m also feeling like I’m not fighting my tack either.
Having the right equipment matters. I learned this decades ago but can’t seem to remember it.
I’ll ride again today in it to try to see how he goes and if he has any sore spots from yesterday. I’m trying to get in touch with the BC rep in the area to have it checked and the flocking redone as well but I think we have a winner here folks!!!