Hands up and out
February 26, 2013 1 Comment
We’ve continued to have some seriously variable weather lately – last week we started with pouring rain and temperatures in the 50’s, only to have a 40 degree drop over one 24 hour period, plunging us back into the deep freeze. We’ve had some silly equine behavior to contend with, but for the most part, Derby has been fine, despite the fact that he and Remy aren’t moving around much at all in their turn out. They’re smart boys – there are some slick spots out there.
Our rides have been similarly up and down. We’ve had some really great ones, and then some others that were marked by tension. Saturday I didn’t ride at all, because he had a case of bats in his belfry. Between lack of exercise and sharply cooler weather, my usually cool cucumber was totally wired, spooking on the longe line the ice falling off the roof and the barn doors opening. Though I was disappointed that I didn’t get to ride, I did take the opportunity to do groundwork. Here’s a video clip of some of the longing. I was pleased that despite his enthusiasm, Derby was also listening, allowing me to half-halt him with my voice, and doing nice upward and downward transitions. However, midway through the video, you see one of the spooks, and he takes off in a spectacularly awful canter, with different leads fore and aft.
Sunday was a weird day, marked by a sad turn of events when an elderly retiree died suddently in his pasture. Though it appeared that he went quickly (not 45 minutes after I had walked by him and said hello on my way to fetch Derby), it was still upsetting, and then there was the unsavory task of moving the deceased from his paddock to the front drive for the livestock removal folks. I didn’t want to be mounted while all that was going on next to the arena, so Derby enjoyed a flake of hay after I tacked him up. We ended up having a pretty decent ride, but nothing earth-shattering. I still rode tentatively and Derby was offering bucks when I touched him with the whip or my pencil-eraser sized spur.
Before my lesson last night, I had Christy check his back, because I was getting to the point where I didn’t trust myself anymore. He’s seemed a bit back sore at lately, and I tried a variety of pad and saddle combinations on him to little avail. I’ve been waffling back and forth, wondering if some of the issues around resistance and cooperation were a symptom of some saddle fit issues, or a symptom that would be best remedied by some wet saddle pads and a good thwack on the rump every now and then. Christy removed my doubts. She poked and prodded, and as she increased the pressure, he yawned and stretched his neck. He thought he was getting a massage.
Wonderful. I got on, feeling much better now that some uncertainty had been removed. And Derby sensed it right away, setting of in a marching walk, and offering no foolishness. While we warmed up, we worked on my position and my bad habit of letting my reins get long and then pulling them toward my hips. The issue du jour for me is carrying my hands properly.
As we warmed up, we worked on getting Derby to come through at the walk, which improves when I sit up, engage my core, use my inside leg and stay out of his mouth. When I get it right we go from this:
To this – a much nicer, more engaged walk.
We then moved to trot, still focusing on throughness and activating Derby’s hind legs, while requiring me to keep my hands where they belong. As I’ve witnessed before, the horse is absolutely willing to meet you halfway when you get your position right. Derby was moving happily and was nicely over his back. It’s in moments like these that I really understand what we’re talking about when we refer to harmony in dressage. Suddenly, things become easy when you’re in balance and harmony with the horse.
It was a really nice ride, and I hope to build on it tonight. However, we have whiteout conditions today, with high winds and snow. Awesome. I can’t wait for spring!