November 25, 2013 Leave a comment
My riding – both in lessons, and when I’m left to my own devices, has continued to dramatically improve, and I believe this is due to the confluence of several factors, including:
- Necessity: If I’m going to ride Derby through the coldest months, I have to be adept at keeping him on the bit and on the aids – those are the foundations of control, and are also important for keeping the horse’s attention on the rider, not on gremlins lurking in muck buckets or behind jump poles.
- Strength & flexibility: I’ve been working hard (extra rides on Tucker, and off the horse too) on developing the strength and flexibility required to keep my hands independent of my seat and influence the horse accordingly; and finally (and probably most importantly)
- The Natalie Effect: Here’s my special sauce. Over the summer, a new boarder, Natalie, and her gorgeous Trakehner mare, Pearl, moved in. Natalie is a lovely rider, and she’s put herself into a bootcamp of sorts, riding as many horses as she can. I offered her Derbs during my insane travel schedule this fall, and while she seems to have enjoyed riding him, I’m the one who benefitted, as she has done something I struggled to do myself – she’s reinstalled the Go button. He’s more forward and responsive, and as such, is easier to ride correctly. Natalie is also a fellow blogger, writing with grace and good humor about her equestrian ventures here: The Best Mare.
Anyway, she’s lovely and gets some beautiful work out of the Derbinator, as you can see here:
Okay. So back to my progress. As I mentioned previously, the pressure was on, due to the impending weather and inevitable frigid temperatures. So, between the imperative to get my sh*t together and ride, I made getting Derby onto my aids my priority.
And you know what? That works pretty well.
Keeping Derby on the aids requires me to ride every step and every moment. I’ve written about that in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly ridden that way, moving from a connected walk to a connected trot and fixing problems as they started to crop up, not when they were full-blown. I’m actually able to feel changes in the horse, now, and feel when when I have good contact (versus a bulgy under-neck), and best of all, I’m learning to make the quick little adjustments necessary to keep Derby’s attention from straying, and to keep him connected and working over his back. Here are some of the highlights:
Christy posited – and I tend to agree – that the last few months, while they may have felt like steps backwards, were actually spent filling gaps in my skills. I’m using my new tools, she says, and am riding more consistently and correctly than she’s ever seen me do. I’m happy with the progress I seen on the video, but I’m happier still with the feel – and the feedback – I’m getting in the saddle.