Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spinning Head, Trotting Feet

When we speak about having a connection with a horse through feel, what's meant by that word "connection" is the part that's in place when what you understand and do is directly connected to what that horse understands and does."

My riding partner canceled last week, so I didn't get to ride Leah on the trail.  I ended up going to Seattle with my husband for the weekend, had a great time, but got nothing done with the horses. 

Tuesday, though, I had a lesson, and even though it was a bit cold and windy, I loaded Leah and went.  I almost didn't.  Someone I care about was having a crisis, and I didn't think that I could switch gears and concentrate on my lesson.  I messaged my instructor that I wasn't coming, but then I thought it over and messaged her back that I was. 

At the lesson, my instructor, Regina, thought it was time to do something new, so she offered me two choices for the lesson: 1.) Go out and ride in the woods near the barn, or 2.)  Work at the trot.

Since it was a little cold and windy, I decided to stay in the arena and work on the trot.

That's when the quote above about connection really struck home. 

Leah is new to trot work, and I am new to trotting on a horse that is new to trot work.  I needed to somehow get her understanding and my understanding, and her balance and my balance, to merge.

First off, Regina told me to shorten the reins and put Leah's head in the place it was going to naturally shift up to when I asked for the trot.  I did.  Then, she told me to ask Leah to trot.

Squeeze.  Cluck.

Off to the races!

Her trot was fast and fresh, but thankfully, my reins were short.  We were trotting in a big circle/square around the entire arena, so I couldn't hear Regina very well.  I was like, What? What?  Not to mention, my mind and body were maxed out keeping my seat and trying to steer her at the same time.   That colloquialism about your head spinning--mine was spinning right off.   

Legs. Hands. Stay On. Sit back. Pull back. Release. Steer. Faster. Slower. Good. Not good.  Listen to Regina. Hold Coffee Cup. Pressure on outside rein. Inside rein steady. Where do I want to go? Where am I going? 

I think Regina told me to pull back both hands evenly and keep them together, like I'm a holding a coffee mug between them, and pull back with varying degrees of pressure--10 plds, 20 lbs, 5 lbs, depending on how fast Leah was trotting beyond the speed I was asking for.  She also told me to do this thing where I sit in my seat solid and move my feet back and forth like I'm walking in place--this movement slows down the pace and Leah responds well to it.

We worked for a long time and finally got this beautiful, relaxed trot, that was like floating on wings.  We did some wide figure eights and moved to smaller circles.  Leah didn't like the smaller circles.  They were hard to do at the trot. 

She decided she was done trotting. 

Leah stopped going forward and started throwing her head up in the air, instead. This throwing of the head is much easier than the trotting! My first reaction was to try to bring her head around, but my instructor told me to hold my hands as they were--together in front--and ask her to trot.  But when I asked her to trot, she'd throw her head up again.  And, Leah was getting a tad pissed.

I marvel at how brave I am with my instructor near me.  Alone, I would have been scared and gotten off.  I'm pretty smart, and I know when a horse is telling me they're done, but that was no way to end it, and we weren't done, and with Regina telling me what to do--good eyes on the ground--I was fearless...or somewhat fearless. 

Eventually, the clouds parted and the sun came out (figuratively), and Leah started going forward again.  I worked her just a little bit more and stopped and petted and praised her.  She rested, and we started again. Her trot improved enough--regular rhythm and speed and collection--that I could post it.  She lightened up under the posting.  Like, What a relief...at least  you're off my back half the time!

There were many moments during the trot work, when I felt Leah and I coming together. Connection.  Love those moments!!  Addictive.

Friday we're going to work on the lope, and my instructor says that after that, she'll be even better at the walk. 

Still hoping to get her out on the trails, but that will have to wait.


12 comments:

  1. I've also noticed that I'm much braver with my trainer nearby. MUCH braver.

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    1. I wish I could take her with me everywhere I go!

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  2. I'm much braver with my trainer telling me what to do too. Leah sounds like Dusty when we first started trotting years ago. Fast, slow, throwing her head etc. But we eventually worked out of it and had wonderful relaxed trots. You're on your way to great rides!

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    1. It's good to hear that Dusty had the same issues! Gives me hope!!

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  3. Be fearless! Well, as much as you can :-) Sounds like you had a great day.

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    1. Good advice! On horseback, fear can be our enemy. Thanks for the encouragement!!

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  4. Don't think I've ever heard of the walking in place to slow the pace thing before - I'm going to have to try that.

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    1. It's all about putting weight in the stirrups and setting a pace. It works really well at the walk. I was surprised that it worked at the trot, too.

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  5. My comments are the same as what everyone else said. I also sometimes wonder if horses don't follow through on threats to cause trouble when they are outnumbered by people. There have been times during my riding lessons that I thought my horse was going to blow, but he/she maintained self-control. I felt like if that second person hadn't been there on the ground, it might have been a different story. Gabbrielle has a fast, crazy, out of control trot that I can't ride. I'm glad you were able to get a better trot out of Leah in one lesson.

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    1. Could be. It might be a sort of distraction for them that keeps them from going too far. Or, it might be the good advice we get with an outsider's perspective.

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  6. Mmhmmm I know that moment when they hit the wall and say "I don't wanna! " But working through it is where they start to build that connection and willingness to be your partner. Sounds like you are working with a good trainer.

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    1. I really don't like that wall, but there's no way you can work with horses and not reach a few of them. Her head throwing was better than some other possible reactions, I suppose. My trainer has been teaching for a long time and has a good eye and lots of great suggestions. She's pretty wonderful. :)

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.