Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things can only get better if you make them worse.

Lucky me, Day 2 of the 30 day challenge is:

Day 02- The last time you rode a horse and what you did

Perfect. Because yesterday was our weekly riding lesson with Coach W...and it was exactly what we needed...

We'll bypass all the boring catching and hauling stuff, though I'd like to mention that as a total girl, I braided Moon's tail while I waited for T to come by for us to haul out. He made me pretty nervous, having to stand behind him, and with the flies, I jumped every time he lifted his leg. I'm sure I'll get over that with time. He looked pretty cute with the braiding, though it was far from professional quality.

Out at Coach W's we were praised on our beautiful walk, and Moon gave me a wonderful trot going clockwise. You'll recall that on Monday, he was AWFUL going clockwise and great going counter. Yesterday the tables turned and it was the polar opposite! Drives me crazy, since that means he's capable of it in both direction, and this is more about him being a brat.

I know he's not too huge on all of this 'work', and have been joking that he's going to put my tack on Kijiji (like Craigslist) and sell it out from under me so that he no longer will have to work. : P It's a Moon sort of thing.

Anyway, we got some nice circles with him starting to lift his shoulders and round nicely. His tempo has really improved and when we *get* it, it's beautiful. I played back the video and was pretty proud of how nicely he could move. I know I have a ton of personal improvements to make; my seat, hands, etc., and think that in two weeks I'm going to do a lunge lesson with one of W's horses to do some work on myself. I think that he's finally getting to the point where he understands enough of what I want, that I need to improve myself before he'll come around too much.

Midway through our lesson one of W's boarders came into the ring with her fancy, leggy warmblood. You could tell she was an impressive dressage rider, and the horse was well trained.

I'll be honest, I was unhappy instantly. For one, I'm not the most self-confident about my riding. I'm hardly confident at all, and W is well aware of that. To suddenly be in the ring with some girl, my own age, moving beautifully around us on a ballerina-type horse, is not a confidence booster. While I'm okay not being nearly as competent as the other girl, it's a little embarrassing when in your mid-twenties, your coach is yelling at you to change your posting diagonal or sit up. These are riding basics. These are things that children should be learning.

You'll say that we're not all lucky enough to learn them as children, and it's true. There's people older then myself who are just starting out, who need this instruction too, and that's okay. But really, I've been in the saddle for 9 years, and to this day haven't consistently gotten it. I'm FINALLY starting to be able to feel when I'm off, but it's a hit and miss sort of thing. It's embarrassing, to say the least.

Now, not only am I in the ring with the next Grand Prix rider being told to sit twice, but Moon decided to be a complete jerk. We never ride in a group. Normally when I'm out, T isn't, so it winds up being me and Moon alone in the ring, and it's pretty good. But yesterday when the other horse walked in, he wanted to do nothing but chase it around. Which left us with a hurried trot, sharp corners, no contact, and it's awful, but we even cut off the poor girl and her horse a few times.

...and nearly ran into the side of the arena once, during a particular disagreement regarding bending.

W kept encouraging us to keep trotting and work through it, and I have to admit that I wish I had spoken up and stopped. I was disorganized. As Moon rushed and cut corners, I fell over his fore, my legs were all over the place, I dropped my hands, I used way too much rein aids and it just got worse and worse to me.

Now, I watched the video back today, and it's never as bad as I imagined. BUT you can tell that I go all to pieces, and everything right about my riding disappears. I wonder if I had just stopped, gathered myself up and restarted, if we would have done any better?

After a couple of improving but still awful circles, W offered to hop on. I was sweating and frustrated by this point, and hopped down willingly. As with the last time she was on him, he turned into Mr. Rabbit, pulling his top lip way back and barring his teeth. It looked awful, with his head in the sky. Especially next to Miss Fancy Pants and her beautiful rider.

W put in a couple of circles on him and managed to get back his focus. Part of this is what has me thinking I need some lunge lessons to work on myself, as I don't have the benefit of being able to sit the trot the way she does. Me bouncing off Moon's back is NOT going to focus him.

Once I was back on him, he really started to come back together, and we worked on our looping circles. Last week they were absolutely awful, and this time after a couple of tries we managed to actually have something resembling a loop, plus some beautiful straight-aways. Moon was just moving beautifully and I was beyond proud of him. Especially since Miss Fancy-Pants was still in the ring, though doing more halt-work (probably because she was tired of me running her over).

When W finally called the lesson to an end, I was pleased. Granted I wasn't able to get Moon back to calm and focused on my own, I was able to maintain it after W's correction. We got some beautiful movement out of him, and he's really progressed from last week, testament to all the rides and work I put on him.

W even told me that he felt way better from the first time she rode him, and that he finally understood what the outside rein was. This is true testament to our success. All I want each time is him to be a little better, and we're doing that.

While we were leaving, T made a comment about how the other horse was a distraction, taking away from our lesson as we dealt with his outburst. It's interesting, as when I first stepped off Moon so W could mount up, I felt the same way. I was pissed off that some girl could show up in the middle of our lesson, ride on our half of the ring (the entire other side of the arena was wide open, yet she kept doing circles on our half!), and seeing how much her horse was distracting mine and ruining my ride, continue on. I was not impressed that someone could take away our lesson and all the success of it like that, and not even bat an eye.

But watching Moon go around the other horse, and then getting on and doing it myself, I suddenly became pretty darn proud of my boy. I don't give a dang that he's not nearly the trained horse as Miss Fancy-Pants. That I have to be reminded to post on the right diagonal, or that we fell to pieces. Or that his head doesn't drop as low as the other horses, and he walks around with his ugly face on. You know what? In 6 weeks of lessons, I have taken my little $500 backyard QH gelding and shown clear improvement. He has given me some beautiful movement, which I helped him create. He's not expensive bred, he hasn't been trained from a young age, and heck, I didn't take my first lesson till I was 17!

Even with the distraction, he came back to me. THAT is exactly what we need more of. I want to keep pushing him, so that he learns how to behave in these new situations. There is NOTHING that girl could have done better for me, then ride in my circle yesterday. Moon didn't buck, I didn't fall of, and nothing went that badly. We had success BECAUSE of how badly things went. We NEED to make them go badly like that, so we can improve on them.

I'm determined now, that he needs to get out more, work around more horses and I should take him to some small fun shows, just so he can learn how to relax and focus on me in these situations. I'm hoping like crazy that Miss. Fancy-Pants is back in the ring next week, as I want to re-focus Moon on my own next time. He can do it. I can do it. And I want that chance!

You know the other thing I was thinking about as my stocky QH marched around the ring? His butt. When I started riding him, he was just a tubby ol'QH, and after the last 6 weeks of work, he's developing topline, he's worked off a lot of his paunch, AND as he trotted around the ring, I could SEE butt muscle! A beautiful line of muscle running down each rump. No, he didn't have as much muscle as Miss Fancy-Pants, but for Moon, it's wonderful to just see muscle!

You know what else? Mr. Moon has a much longer and prettier tail then Miss Fancy-Pants. That's right. He might pull ugly rabbit faces, but he's got a luscious tail.

That was my last ride. I rewatched the video this morning and he's really coming along. T and W keep telling me what a beautiful trot he was when he's actually on the bit and I could see that. He has pretty moments.

Now what? Well, yesterday proved to me that riding him 4 days a week DOES make a huge difference. Not only to his responsiveness and movement, but it also helps build his muscle. So we're riding seriously now. Tonight he's getting his pedicure and T has a trainer coming out to help her with a couple of the kids, so I'm hoping maybe I can work him around other horses. I have Monday off, and was thinking of taking him to Birds Hill to expose him to more changing environments. Experience, experience, experience.

Let me say, that riding this much is a lot of work. Stuff still has to get done around home, and I'm sore and tired every morning when I wake up. But I sleep like a log, and know I'm developing a ton of muscle and tone myself. And if I'm this sore and tired, how must Moon feel?!

Tonight? I'm thinking after his pedicure we'll try and do a bunch of trot poles in addition to our circles, with opposite ends elevated so he has to start engaging and lifting through them. Then we'll work on some figure-8's to finish the evening off. If I work up the nerve, I might also leave his fly mask on overnight, though I'm still a nervous nelly on that one. Someone promise me that horses don't run through fences when they wear their masks to bed...

Last thing. While I know my leg position sucks because I suck, I'm wondering how much of it has to do with my saddle? In some pictures, it seems that my stirrup leathers are perfectly vertical, yet I have couch legs. Hmmm... On another note, I tried to change the gullet and couldn't figure out how for the life of me. I might bring out a screw driver tonight and give it another go. Second time is the charm, right?

1 comment:

  1. Your positives out-weigh the negatives in this ride, IMO. I think that it's great that you are using videos as a training aid. I didn't get the courage to have myself videoed until I had been riding my guy for almost a year. :-) I think they are a great tool.

    I have only been riding for 3 years, two of them with my Gem. It's only been in the last little while that I have started to feel the connection. He's still smarter than me, but that gap is closing as we communicate better. I think your idea of exposing Moon to different things and other riders can only improve your communication with him and make him (and you?) more confident. :-)

    I'd like to see a picture of that beautiful tail, please! ;-)