April 15, 2012 7 Comments
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,
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.
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.