Tweaks, Adjustments & Redemption

1 18 stretch

Last night I had an uncharacteristically bad ride on Manny.  His normal enthusiasm felt more like resistance – I couldn’t get him to soften his braced neck.   We worked half halts and transitions, but I couldn’t get him through.  I was disappointed, and the ride really bugged Christy too.

Tonight I gave it another shot. After I warmed up, things were better but still not great. At Christy’s suggestion, I shortened my stirrups a hole.  Presto.  I felt solid and balanced, and Manny appreciated it.   We got our act together, and I was able to practice riding him out to the contact, while keeping my hands above his wither, where they belonged.

While the ride was going better, my ankles were feeling the effects of the shorter leathers.  My ankles are stiff, and I don’t seem to have much shock-absorbing flexibility in them.  When I’m in two-point, Christy often asks me to relax my ankle downward – and I can’t.  My heel doesn’t go much lower than my irons.  Anyway, I was really feeling the burn, so I dropped my stirrups and took a break.  Then I looped them across Manny’s withers for some no-stirrups torture.  To my delight, I was actually able to hold myself in decent carriage this time around, and I was able to encourage Manny to reach for the bit a little, and round.

I was feeling solid in my position, so I did something that I haven’t done for about 5 years. I cantered with no stirrups!  Christy was sufficiently stunned.  And I’m happy to report that it felt wonderful.

1 18 canterGoing left, we picked it right up.  Going to the right, I had to work a bit more.  Manny’s a bit stickier to that direction, and so am I.  Our first transition didn’t happen – I just got a racing standardbred trot, but I was feeling so good in the saddle that it didn’t bother me at all.  I was able to half halt, put him back together and ask him again.  On the second try, I got the canter, but I didn’t successfully ride it as long as I wanted to, because by this point, I was getting tired.  Manny dropped to a trot before I asked, but at that point, I needed a breather.  We walked a bit, and then gave it another try.  The third time was a charm. The transition was fairly prompt and I held it until I was done.

The tweaks did the trick, and Christy told me we redeemed ourselves from last night’s yukko effort!


Good man.


It’s been a while since I posted, and I don’t have too much that’s new to report.  Right after the show, my husband and I went away for a few days. Some of the teenagers at the barn rode Derby while I was away – and he got some real work in with them.

Unfortunately, my unscheduled dismount at the show left me with a pulled groin muscle and a very sore sprained ankle – I think my foot hung in the stirrup a bit on my way down, rolling my foot over and injuring the ankle.  It’s better but not healed.  I have to be careful when I ride not to aggravate it.

I’ve had a couple lessons that were pretty ‘eh’ – it’s hard to ride well when things hurt!  And last weekend me made an attempt at a trail ride, but I threw in the towel when Derby refused to go by through a gap in a fence that is right next to a culvert.  He wasn’t being bad about it, and a rider with more intestinal fortitude would have kicked him through it, but that day, that rider wasn’t me.  I hate to give in but I didn’t have a whip with me (mistake) and, as previously mentioned, I’m not at 100%.

Last night the ankle was really bugging me, so Christy had me drop my stirrups. Needless to say, posting without stirrups isn’t something I do enough of and I didn’t last too long – those muscles are weak, and I’m feeling it today!  We also did some sitting trot work that was pretty fun.  I was able to get Derby to round for just a moment, enabling me to experience what sitting on a back that’s up feels like.  It’s much better than sitting on one that’s hollow.  But the no-stirrups work was great and informative.  I love how Christy can make lemonade when I hand her a lemon.

We’re entered in another schooling show next weekend.  It’s another unfamiliar venue, which is great practice for us.  Despite the tumble two weeks ago, we are making progress.  The key, when we’re away at home, isn’t to try to get Derby to relax.  It’s to take charge and really ride him.  When he is convinced that the human is in charge, he’s fine.  It’s convincing him that’s the challenge.


It gets worse, it gets better (?)

I don’t know about you, but when I tackle a home organization or cleaning project, things generally get worse before they get better.  When I go to re-organize my office, or switch from summer clothes to winter duds in my closet, I invariably end up first destroying the space I’m tackling, and then putting it back together.

I think I’m doing the same to my riding !

Things were better tonight, but still not back to normal. Physically, I was much more comfortable – I wasn’t as stiff and sore (I skipped working out today) but I did stay on for 45 minutes, and got some work done.  The muscle endurance is still not there. I’m going to give the legs  another day of rest tomorrow, and just do some easy cardio and a core workout.  I’m more than a bit bothered by the fact that I can’t trot round for a few minutes without my legs burning.   This too shall pass, I’m sure.

Mads was hanging on the left rein something fierce, likely because I was doing the same. Christy had me work on turning left with a loopy left rein, meaning I had to be really active with my inside leg, and control the turn with my outside rein.  Obviously, I have not corrected the imbalance identified when I did the Eqisense analysis, and learned that I was placing a ton of pressure in that left rein, even though they felt even to me.   Here’s the analysis feedback screen showing vastly uneven pressure in the reins, though I would have sworn to you on a stack of Bibles, hand to God, that I was holding them evenly.

It took a while before the light bulb flicked on in both my head, and Maddie’s.  We waddled drunkenly around, narrowly missing walls.   Things improved when I used my outside leg as a correction, to prevent the mare from turning right.  And I used the inside rein slightly, to keep her looking left.

Christy had me release contact in the left rein after I softened Mads to the left, and got the desired response: a good left bend, with nice contact into the outside rein.  I presume dropping the rein had two purposes, or maybe even three. First, it was an immediate and clear reward to Maddie when she did the right thing.   Secondly, it removed the mare’s ability to hang on that rein.  And finally, it started to reinforce the habit and feel of lighter contact for me in that left rein.

We ended the ride by shuffling around at a halting trot with no stirrups.  I’m riding hesitantly without my stirrups, because I’m afraid of getting going, and having them bang into Maddie’s sides, and evoking a spirited response.  I’m going to either relinquish them entirely next week (though, for the record, Christy has promised to give them back to me) or at least loop them over the pommel – if the edges of my cheese-grater pads won’t hurt horse or rider.

Family is visiting this weekend.  I’m taking a two-day hiatus, and hope to be back in the saddle on Sunday.