Not Going Anywhere

I had a rather surreal moment today

I was delighted to be given the lovely Dotty to ride for our lesson this afternoon. She is a very sweet mare, but I’ve only ever jumped her before. I’ve been itching to have a flat lesson on her though, because I hadn’t actually seen her working properly on the flat yet and wanted to see what she could do.

Turns out, she can do more than I expected. The main exercise of the lesson was to do with lengthening and shortening strides, but in a precise and controlled manner. We had to do it in all three paces, over a set distance marked out by a pole at each end. In between the two poles, we had to count the number of strides taken in normal working paces, attempting an extended stride and then trying to collect the horse and create a shortened stride. We did it in walk, counting out the strides and seeing how big the difference was. Dotty worked well and achieved the exercise easily.

Before moving up to doing it in trot and canter, Emma had us working on canter transitions to get the horses responding nice and sharply. She gave us very specific instructions, “Canter at A, and trot at B”. I looked down at Dotty, then at the space we had to canter in. “Yeah..right…that’s going to happen” I thought. She’s a lovely mare and all, but she likes to canter and isn’t keen on the whole stopping part. I figured we should probably give it a go anyway, do our best to stay in control and not go careering into anyone and all that.

She was perfect. Popped up into canter exactly on the marker, cantered in a lovely controlled manner and came back to a lovely light trot precisely when I asked her. Every time. I was not only totally amazed that she actually responded like that, but also very pleased that my aids were clearly good enough for her to understand what I wanted at the exact point I wanted it. Having got the horses listening well enough in the canter, Emma then had us trot and canter through the two poles to try and measure their strides.

Trot was easy peasy. Dotty extended beautifully, lengthening her stride and cutting the normal number from three down to two. The shortening also worked surprisingly well, managing to get five and a half strides in. I wasn’t sure about her ability to collect and shorten stride; being a thoroughbred she tends to go a bit long and likes to stretch out and use speed to her advantage. But she did well enough in the trot. I still had my doubts about canter though.

Until we did it, that is. Bloody hell did we do it. We popped into canter and as we turned the corner to come across the poles I had this strange sensation that I wasn’t actually moving. The horse underneath me was moving, but we weren’t going anywhere. For a moment I thought I must have not put enough leg on through the corner and that she had basically given up on me. I then heard Becky say something like “look at Dotty go!” and realised that we were still cantering, but almost on the spot. She had responded to my aids to collect to the extent that she was giving me the most beautiful, light, bouncy canter. Unfortunately, in my surprise on realising what I had achieved, I lost some of that collection and allowed her to lengthen her stride again slightly. It was still a wonderfully collected canter, and we went through the poles managing to fit six or seven strides in as opposed to her working canter which was two strides within the poles. If I’d kept that light almost stationary canter though, we’d have got about twelve in there I think.

Honestly, it was the bounciest, strangest, most surreal thing I’ve ever sat. And I loved it! That’s the first time I’ve ever ridden anything to that level of collection, and it was fantastic. More than anything, I was in total shock that she actually did it for me. First off, I didn’t know she could do it that well given her tendency to run on, and secondly I had no idea my aids would be sufficient to encourage her to come that round and light and bouncy for me. Oh that horse. What a wonderful girl.

Yesterday Tillie and I jumped, as per our normal Monday afternoons. It was the first time I’d ridden a horse since falling off last Monday, so while I wasn’t nervous about getting back on, I certainly wanted to play the caution card. Initially I chose Fox over Lucy, because I’d never ridden Lucy and felt more comfortable with knowing what to expect from the horse I was on. I know Foxy can be an idiot at times, but I felt more confident getting on him, safe in the knowledge that I had some idea of how he would work. Whereas with Lucy, I had no idea at all.

Half way through the lesson, Sonya decided to swap us over. Fox was being a prat and backing off at everything, and while I was happy enough to kick him on and keep trying, Sonya was aware of the fact that I was backing off slightly as well and being slightly more defensive than normal because of my back. Lucy had been behaving well, so I felt happy enough to hop onto her instead. Turns out, she’s quite a sweet little thing. She’s got a nice light trot, and she’s very genuine over a jump. There was none of the racing and charging that other people have experienced, she was polite and responsive to my aids before, during and after the jumps. Such a good girl. I quite enjoyed riding her in the end.

I have, however, possibly overdone it a little bit. Riding Dotty was wonderful, but certainly something of a work out and my back is now slightly sore and stiff again. I am hoping a good nights sleep will see me right again, but who knows.

Mornings bring new things!

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