Wednesday, 16 October 2013

That "I finally GET IT!" moment

Have you ever had those moments when you're riding and it finally just CLICKS and that concept you've been trying to get finally just works?  I had one of those moments this past Monday while doing a dressage school in the yard.  The concept that just came was one we've all heard many MANY times before: "Leg ON and have a soft and following contact" or "PUSH the horse into the bridle" or "Ride from your leg to your hand", etc.  The bulk of the ride was just simple stuff, doing some lateral work and getting both of us comfortable riding in the yard again and using it as an arena.  Circles, leg yields around round bales, transitions were all on the docket for the ride and I wanted to end off with some no stirrup work for myself to help work on my leg position.

Tired but happy pony 

I dropped and crossed my irons and off we went to work on my sitting trot.  Somewhere in the mix I've lost my soft back and seat so I feel like a sack of potatoes bouncing about on top of the saddle which is no good at all.  Koda is a pretty sensitive guy when it comes to his back and to show his unpleasantness with my seat, he'll shut down and fall behind my leg.  Since I'm focusing on my seat, I end up either missing my timing to get him back in front of my leg or just go with him and slow down (not good, bad rider!).  While we were trotting 20 m circles with 10 m circles in every quarter, I suddenly remembered something I heard at a dressage lesson I audited back in August: "PUSH the horse's head down".  I don't know why, but it really resonated with me and gave it a go.  Lo and behold, the moment I put my legs on (and kept my seat/body soft and hands following), Koda lifted his back, pushed from behind, and down went the giraffe head!

I'm extremely thankful that Koda is such an expressive horse in this instance because it really hammered home what I needed to be doing to ride him correctly and have him going in any type of balance.  I see a lot of no stirrup work and going from posting to sitting to posting in my future.  It didn't hurt that I made a custom riser pad for my saddle as well :)
Recycling the foam from an old life jacket

When I'm in the saddle it settles quite nicely

After that first revelation, I played around with it going both left and right.  He's MUCH more willing to push up under himself to the right but not so much on the right which tells me that right hind is still recovering from its bout of thrush in September.  He's not lame but is just not willing to push off that hoof as much as the other, or perhaps he's just not as developed going to the left than the right.  I know I'm a stronger rider to the right than left so that could easily be it as well, let alone his preference for the right over the left.  

Love this horse

I know plenty of you are doing a two-point challenge right now, but I'm going to put myself into a different challenge.  During this off season, I will end every single one of my rides with no stirrup work of at least 10 minutes walk/trot.  I know I won't be riding that often once the snow gets here so while the weather is good, we'll keep going!