Sorry it’s been a bit quiet, just been mainly hacking so not much to report. Had a super session with Saf yesterday. It was very windy so she started off quite tense and fixed in her neck. Worked on 10m circles, so a 10m circle right, then straight away change to 10m circle left then continue up the arena. Seems to be working really well and does help Saf become a bit softer in her neck. By the time we’d done this a few times Saf was really soft, and suddenly seemed like she’d remembered what we’ve been working on the last few weeks.
Did a few walk, trot transitions making sure Saf was soft in her neck and listening before making the transition, she’s getting really good at this! Then did a few canter transitions making sure the trot was relaxed before asking. For some reason I seem to get a mental block with canter every year. It’s all going really well by the autumn, then we have the winter off and I just can’t seem to process what I am supposed to be doing. It’s not exactly Saf’s strongest pace either so between us and my self deprecation it all falls apart. I gave myself a stern pep talk today and am going to do a few 20m canter circles on each rein every session just to work through this mental block. Felt tonnes better today compared to Friday and managed to just relax into it a bit more.
So a great session, really pleased! All the ponies now happily installed in their summer quarters (we cheated, I know it’s not quite June yet!) This does mean that Saf needs to do twice as much work to keep her waistline in check! Penny is doing a grand job blending in, bonus points if you can spot her!
Super lesson with Max on Saturday and look, I think Spring has arrived!
Today we did a few adjustments to my position, working on sitting on my backside a bit more as I’m still a bit prone to tipping forwards (better than before though!) and also need to make sure I don’t stretch my front line and arch my back.
These niggles rectified, we focused today on getting Saf to soften over her topline and become more ‘on the aids’. As you will have seen over the years, Saf tends to fix her neck, poll and jaw. Now is the time to ask her to release, something I must ask from my elbows and shoulders, whilst ensuring my wrists stay soft. As you can see we got there in the end 🙂 Lots of 10m circles with changes of direction up the arena. I need to keep moving myself and not staying still, as Saf gets basically ‘rusty’ so it’s a contant process asking her to stay soft. As ever, the mantra ‘every step you ride is a step you train’ is ringing in my ears! From now on we either have ‘Saf’s rein’ i.e on the buckle, or ‘my rein’ when I pick them up and she needs to be on the aids.
“She doesn’t look like an ‘old lady’ now does she?” Haha, err, no! Must stop worrying about Saf’s age!
Little schooling sesh with Saf on Satruday. Super girlie being very agreeable whilst I spent some time working on sitting ‘across’ the saddle evenly. Thanks to Claire who is really developing her eye and is getting really good at being my eyes on the ground.
Then Saturday evening we went along to Patrice Edwards’ lecture on ‘the seat’ which was enlightening, can’t wait to try a few new things out.
Been looking forward to another lesson with Max all week. Saf has been a sweetheart and worked really hard all week putting up with me experimenting with one thing or another. I really wanted to clarify in this lesson how my seat should be feeling in the saddle. I have gone from knowing very little about weight aids, to understanding (kind of) the feeling on sitting across the saddle, a feeling of being central. At the same time a ‘weight aid’ is not as simple as piling a load of weight onto my right seatbone to turn right, and vice versa for left. I cannot simply weight the desired seatbone and abandon the other one. My outside leg is now further behind the girth than I am used to, so that’s taking some thinking about. I can ask for inside flexion with the rein, but mustn’t be tempted to raise my hand and hold it there.
Excitingly, I am now at the stage where we can start getting a feel of lateral work. Max had me coordinating my legs, seat and rein aids and swapping from inside bend to shoulder-out (counter shoulder-in) on the left rein and shoulder-in and haunches in on the right rein. Non-horsey folk, I will try to explain these movements when I get a chance, but suffice to say they are effective suppling exercises designed to stretch out Saf’s contracted left side. I have to say that this part really was good fun, I’m itching to get back on board and have another play! Must be more aware of Saf’s posture though, and ensure she is standing straight and evenly before attempting to move off, plus watch out for her shoulders drifting left when on the right rein (that pesky right handedness!)
More of the same this evening. Exploring weight aids, really concentrating keeping my legs rotated inwards at the hips and trying to let my legs sink down and really drop out of my hip sockets (sounds gross!) Saf seemed to be leaning on her left shoulder as opposed to the usual right one on both reins. I did notice an improvement when concentrating on letting my right leg down more. I gave myself a talking to and took my stirrups away which I always find really beneficial.
Finished by doing some turn on the haunches / walk pirouettes on a loose rein by just weighting the inside seatbone (so right for right and left to go left). I have been faaaar too reliant on my hands for steering (a trait picked up from years of riding schools).
Really pleased, will try to get some video next time.
Had one of THOSE rides this morning. You know when you just feel so connected to your horse and it’s like they’re reading your mind. I concentrated really hard on what we did in my last lesson (first proper opportunity to do so). In walk, one handed or no rein contact, we just flowed from one circle to the next using just my weight. I know I’ve said it many times but Saf really is the best teacher I could wish for, she may as well be telling me in plain English what I’m doing right or wrong.
Did a little bit of trot work on large circles too, aiming to keep the weight aids going (but much harder in rising trot!) Saf now seems to find right rein easier, despite being a left bended horse. I suspect this may be to do with my right leg and hip being squashed up into the hip socket due to Saf’s barrel swinging to the right when doing a left circle. Plus I can hula hoop better to the right than to the left.
First lesson with Max in months! I very nearly cancelled it last week as I had the worst flu ever and could barely get out of bed for 3 days. Thankfully I started to feel better on Thursday and was rudely awoken this morning by my alarm. I still wasn’t 100% but Saf was a sweetheart and looked after me. She has only been schooled once since last year so it must have been a bit of a shock for her too.
We took it easy working in walk to start, it took a while for my brain to get into gear. Eventually I managed to grasp the concept of weight aids for circles, and how I need to use my seat first and foremost, then once the shoulders are aligned with the hindlegs, I am allowed to ask for neck bend by raising my inside hand slightly. Having sorted the lateral (left and right bending of the spine and neck) and topline (raising the head and hollowing her back) evasions, Saf’s next trick is the speed evasion, in this case slowing down when she finds something difficult. This was easily remedied was some taps with the leg. She was generally up for anything really, which surprised me as she has been practically untouched by human hand for over a week and thought she’d reverted to her wild status!
Hopefully I’ll be a bit more with it next time! Thanks Claire for the photos.