Lessons can be great, but as the saying goes “the proof is in the gravy”, namely would what I learned in my lesson with AB translate home when riding alone?
Of course, as is the norm in my life, Eeyore sat for longer than I anticipated. Sunday morning I was finally able to tack up and see what I could do with what AB told me Wednesday night.
First off was installing forward thinking and moving from the start. No more checking the brakes with a 10 minute walk-halt-walk warm up. Get on and get moving! Eeyore was a bit up having just moved the horses out the far field for the month of June even though they were all in the barn for breakfast. I swear he is the epitome of book smart and street dumb.
It was good though. That is the attitude that makes me generally lock everything down to a crawl and that is exactly the opposite of what AB wants me to do. She wants me to feel more confident and comfortable with him in front of me and moving than rely on curling him into himself and creating a situation where he only has up to go to release his energy.
Once I mounted, I got him moving into a marching walk. I didn’t ask for a halt one single time and instead set us up on the move. I only walked around the arena one time in each direction before getting into the trot as AB had instructed me to do.
My second big goal was to stick to the rail. I’ve always been told to use figures and changes in direction as a way to keep his focus and attention, but AB wants me to use the entire arena, staying on the rail, as a way to keep that forward momentum at all times. It also forces me to not cave in when he begins to bulge his shoulder or decides now would be a fantastic time to cut in. I haven’t been the best at sticking to my plan, so when he would do that in the past I would turn that into a circle, serpentine or change of direction and think I was doing something good. Instead I basically just taught him that he was in charge and could make the decisions.
By sticking to the rail, I was forcing myself to stick to my plan no matter what.
So off we went at a trot to the right along the rail. He did his patented grab the bit and duck in maneuver. I sat tall, shoulders back, knee bent and thought “nope, Trainer AB says to ignore him, keep a light but loose contact, and use my left rein to keep him out against the rail” He was none too happy with this and got a bit angry but you know what? Because I had a forward, in front of my leg horse, and because I refused to lock down and give him something to grab against, he continued moving where I wanted and it never escalated beyond some grumpy head shakes on his part.
In fact, it took only two long sides and two turns to get him relaxed and on board with the plan. Way sooner than ever before and we went on to change direction and have a lovely ride to the left. He got a nice stretchy walk break before I wanted to try the canter in the same manner.
Off to the right, I got him in front of my leg (what a concept!!) and then asked for the canter. He picked it up, but then also picked up the bit and tried to cut in to the right like a good western games horse. Except…I sat tall, kept light but loose contact, kept my knees bent under me, and used the left rein to keep him out along the rail. And you know what?? He complied rather quickly. He still loved to burst out of the turn like a race horse going down the long side, but that was manageable and only last a few circuits before he was relaxed and settled and gave me a lovely uphill, hind end powered and easy canter.
I didn’t ride for very long. He was being such a good boy and I hit all my goals after about 30 ish minutes. The morning was nice and cool and he had barely broken a sweat but the ride was more for my benefit than his. I plan to lay out some ground poles again for my next ride and work through a similar exercise to what she had placed for us in the lesson with the change of bend as convincing him to nicely go where I want versus where he wants is our most difficult task on the flat at the moment. It was really nice to not only have homework to work on after the lesson, but to be able to apply it as well. I really think AB is going to be great for me.