Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Dark, Longer Stirrups, and Two Good Rides

So, despite everything, I have to say I had two fabulous rides this past weekend. I am no longer able to ride as much as I want/need to, so I have now become a "weekend warrior", which quite frankly sucks. Not only do I have no time to ride because it is now DARK at 5PM, but also this whole having-a-real-job-thing just really cuts into my riding time. LOL! When I was home with C. I often snuck in a ride after lunch during his nap time. Of course, this only worked if it was not 100 degrees outside. If so, I would wait until after dinner and ride around 6:30-7:00 PM. This was fine all spring/summer because it was light so late. So I have been in a real riding funk lately.

Well, while Dreamy may have thought she was retired there for a while, she was absolutely fantastic this past weekend. I rode both Saturday afternoon (after S returned from hunting of course) and then again on Sunday afternoon. The weather was gorgeous for November in Maine. :) I did not want to ride for that long, as Dreamy is becoming out of shape rather quickly. SO I rode for maybe 40-45 minutes each day.

She has come so far in accepting contact all the time. We did some really nice working walk and free walk transitions, where she actually stayed in contact the entire time. It used to be I had to be SO careful not to actually take "too much" contact at once (or any at all...) because she would THROW her little diva head in the air. Oh boy.

And on Satuday I just figured I would try a canter to see what happened....I was truly expecting it to be BAD. But despite her time off.....um.....like 2 rides in 2 weeks....yeah not impressed....she was really really good. I just did plain old trot-canter transitions on Saturday, and she was very obedient and happy. Left lead was better than the right of course....but it was not like the right was horrible. Going to the left she is accepting of contact and the right is still...>THROW head into the canter and bobble around trying to pace behind a little bit (still...) but honestly it was not as bad as it has been in the past.

Sunday she was being so darn good I figured well....let's see what the walk-canter transition might look like. I tried to just sit up, sit correct, and ask her firmly but without much fuss. And I knew that if I asked TOO HARD she would get all confused and end up picking up the wrong lead.

Well, I nearly wanted to cry. She picked up the left lead canter from the walk with NO PROBLEMS at all! HOLY COW! And the funny part was I could see her shadow when I asked her because of where the sun was behind us....and she actually looked like a REAL HORSE PICKING UP THE CANTER! ROFL!!!!!!! :) It was just as nice and light and off the forehand as a girl could hope for. We cantered for about halfway around the 40 m. circle (that serves as my "ring"...grrrrr....) and then came back to the trot. She was RIGHT THERE. No fussing, no fixing the rein length, nothing. Just canter to trot to walk. Then I asked her again to canter. And four times she did it! WOOO-HOOOO! I know that I probably did not need to do it four times (I know I am excessive), but for one thing it was just so exciting and for another thing it was FUN!

When we tried it to the right it was NOT so pretty. She got all flustered and when I asked her to canter she went into pace mode. UGGG. So, feeling a major hissy fit coming on, I just figured the hell with it. I tried the canter from the trot a few times. Ok we can do that. So then the third time I brought her back and asked from the walk. Whoa, she did it. It was not as pretty as the left, but she did it. I asked her to come back down and I let out the reins with a huge GOOD MARE!!!!! and scratch on the neck. She was really looking for a fight, so I figured once was enough. She did what I asked, though not "pretty", she did it. So I ended there.

I cannot understand why she still throws her body forward in this odd way and flips up her head when I ask her to canter to the right. It is exactly what she was doing to the left earlier in the year, so I am going to assume it will eventually work itself out like it did to the left. I am hoping it is not because something hurts. :( But now she is dropping her head/keeping it still and engaging her butt when I ask her to canter to the left, so I am hopeful for progress. We shall see.

Oh the longer stirrups thing....well Saturday I was cooling her out and started thinking that my stirrups were really way too short. I mean, I am such a hunt seat rider and have always felt more comfortable in 2-point. I WISH I had started riding dressage at age 6 and not hunt seat! AHHH! Oh well....but anyway, having gotten the new saddle this late summer and not always feeling confident in my position at the canter, I opted to go with shorter stirrups for my own security. And then on Saturday they suddenly just felt really short (I took my feet out of the stirrups when I was walking her around to cool down and when I took them back I was all of a sudden surprised at how short they were!) So I put them down a hole....not a huge deal for some, but it was for me. It made me feel so weird. But my position has improved SO MUCH and I am 100% used to my new saddle....so I decided it was time to be a big girl and ride like a real dressage rider. LOL!

And then on Sunday I totally forgot I had put the stirrups down. It dawned on me after our first warm up trot. Ah, these feel different......but not in a bad way, like it would have back in early spring when I could barely stay on when we cantered! LOL!

So, funny thing happened. All of a sudden I can use my entire leg and wow I am more effective! Imagine that. SIGH. Sometimes I feel like the biggest dunce in the world. What's the old adage....the more I learn about dressage the less I realize I know? Or something.

Our canter was better because I was SITTING UP better.....ah, maybe because with longer stirrups I could not physically get myself into my "safety zone" of forward seat riding. :)

So anyway, here's to decent canter departs and longer stirrups. I might not be able to ride as much as I like, but at least the rides lately have been pretty darn good.

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