Do you *really* ride every stride?

I had the pleasure of riding two spooks over the last couple days, including a pretty big one on Saturday.  Derby was apparently stunned to see humans walking around the outdoor, and teleported sideways and then thundered across the arena.  During the episode I lost a stirrup, and had enough time to think “Oh, crap” and then “I’m coming off” and then “No, I’m not coming off, I’m okay” and then “Can I get my stirrup back and keep him in this this canter for a good long while?”

I couldn’t regain the stirrup while Derby continued to be silly, but I was able to get him down to a trot pretty quickly, at which point I grabbed my stirrup and put him back to work.  I did the ‘cloverleaf’ pattern I used to ride when I needed to get Maddie’s head back in the game.  I use relatively small circles (about 12m) and change direction and bend constantly.  It’s my default pattern for those “sit up and ride” moments. Once I had his back up and a good connection and was in control of the hind legs, I headed back down the long side. Derby tried to spook again, earning a spur firmly in his side, while I growled and gave him a spank with my whip.  He did veer off course but I was able to block a bigger reaction.   We did another couple turns of the cloverleaf again, crossed the diagonal, went back down the long side with no incident going the other way. I switched direction, went down the long side going the same direction as the original spook, and Derby was fine.  At that point, we were more than finished for the day.

This got me thinking about something Christy and I’ve spoken about several times – riding every stride, meaning that you literally manage every moment of the ride.  I don’t do this. I should.  I do ride every stride when I’m dealing with a situation like the aforementioned spook.  Which drives Christy a bit nuts, I think, because, when I really ride with intent and attention, things get a lot better.

I really need to get more out of myself.  One thing that has helped me is “homework,” meaning I take exercises from my lessons and really practice them, not going through the motions but really working on quality results.  I’ve also noticed that Derby is more likely to spook when I start to get tired, toward the end of the ride. That, I suppose, is more incentive for me to get my act together, and keep it there. Though if anyone out there has any ideas for maintaining focus,

Maintaining position while Maddie takes a close look at the jump standards.

The good news is that I’m regaining my seat and balance, and my confidence is intact despite Derby’s recent antics.  The work I did while riding Maddie on my seat has continued to pay off, and my lower leg is now pretty steady and quiet.

An ugly moment but I'm plugged into the tack. My lower leg hasn't moved and is providing a good base of support.

However, the recent events have recommitted me to improving my seat even more.  I’ve agreed to start dropping my stirrups in lessons (just a bit to start!).

I know from personal experience that (for me at least) confidence stems from building my competence. I’m glad I was able to stick with these recent spooks, which have been good tests of my seat.  But in my mind, I don’t think one can ever have too much stability int he saddle.  This won’t be terribly fun but it will be worth it.

Maintaining position as Maddie takes a really close look at some jump standards.

Change of plan.


Both Derby and I overdid things early this week, and I ended up cancelling my lesson last night.  My entire body was sore from an ambitious workout, and Derby was sporting a fresh cut on his leg and a sore back, both most likely the result of playing too hard.

Tonight we reported for duty, and we were both feeling better, though as we warmed up, I could tell that my leg muscles were still going to pose a challenge. My legs felt really tired and the muscles were burning just a few minutes into the lesson.  After a few more minutes, I told Christy that I needed to get off the circle we were working on, because I just didn’t feel able to sustain the bend and all the corrections and adjustments necessary.

I'll remember this when he tells me he can't sit into collection in a couple years.

Nothing was going particularly well, and then things actually got a little worse when Derby spooked at some activity in the aisle. It was completely rideable, making for some funny video stills.  And I got a much better trot out of the deal.

It was also an opportunity for me to “sit up and ride” as I used to when Maddie lost her marbles.  And, as these situations are, it was a reminder that riding more purposefully and assertively yields results.

Well, at least he's round.

He was still a bit distracted, but responded nicely when I got busy with my inside leg, yielding out on a circle and giving me the nice quality trot I was after (and must re-establish as our norm.)

Until he pulled that crap again.

When he spooked again, I stuck my spur into his side and kept him cantering.  He actually picked up the wrong lead, so we went around and around and (*kick*) around counter-cantering.  I was just hell bent on keeping him going, because, as Christy says, if you have the energy to spook, you have the energy to work. On a positive note, I supposed, Christy said the counter-canter was nicely balanced and he held it for a while.  At this point, second level is light years away so I’m not too worried about this at the moment.  We transitioned into a trot, and I kept him going some more.

He's like a drama-queen tween, intent upon looking good while making a scene.

At this juncture, we finally got some nice work.  Derby was really on my aids, and was electric and forward. He felt fantastic. And despite the nonsense, I felt good and in control pretty much the whole time.  He came right back to me after each bout of the stupids, which is the outcome I prefer.

However, at this point, I was about to slither from the horse.  I was worn out – my leg muscles were completely shot.  Not sure how I’ll feel tomorrow – I’m taking some Advil and hitting the sack!