Well if I thought it was hot during my lesson on Saturday, we were in for a shock doing Prelim 7 on Sunday at Codham! Having given ourselves a bench mark last time, I was aiming for more relaxation and less tension from Saf, and for me to keep my hands softer. After a boiling hack there, Saf was on her best behaviour and stood happily tied to a tree eating her haynet. It was amazing for all of us to be ‘hands free’, without one of us having to hold onto her. Simple things! After a half hour rest we headed down to the warm up, which seemed less busy compared to last time.
Saf started out tense and looky, but we had a happy canter on each rein which seemed to get it out of her system. She then worked really rather well. Wanted to keep the warm up to a minimum due to the heat, and we were soon called.
I was so pleased with her, I remembered to relax my hips and kept my hands light rather than the usual ninja grip I develop when I feel like she’s going to run off during the test. She was understandably happier and aside from a bit of nose poking at times and ducking in on a few corners in canter I was really pleased. Came out with a grin which is always good 🙂 61% which I was happy with and felt about right from where I was sitting and particularly pleased since it’s only our second time at this venue.
Scorchio lesson on Saturday morning. Spent today working on keeping my upper legs and hips loose and ‘off’. I need to allow Saf room to lift her back and she can’t do this if I’m squeezing her! I think I got a good feel for this so will try be aware of what’s going on there. We did a bit of work in canter as well, which felt lovely, I’m really learning to love Saf’s canter, which I never thought I’d do. Concentrating on keeping my hips and thighs relaxed is particularly important at this point, especially given that I tend to squeeze her if I feel she’s slowing down as mentioned in yesterday’s post.
I need to just ask Saf to do something, and then let her do the work. I’m too much of a ‘doer’ and end up doing more work than her and stifling her.
Wandered over to Bluegate on Saturday (well, an hour’s wander!) to hire their gorgeous arena. It really is a treat to have a go on it, but the main reason for our visit was to get some nice, relaxed work from Saf away from her home environment. We’ve not been here since September last year but Saf felt at home at once. A little tense at first, but got down to work pretty quickly. Had a quick walk, trot and canter to warm up, concentrating on keeping Saf focused on me. It’s a very quiet place, but Saf used the horses being brought in as an excuse to have a gawp.
Once the tension settled, I felt I could get my leg on her a little more, without the feeling that she would wizz off. Got some lovely work towards the end where we had both lateral and topline flexion, but Saf would respond with the third evasion, namely speed. She insists that she can bend correctly and flex her neck at the same time, but she has to slow down, so I then have to ask for forwardness, which she responds to but shortens her topline, and so it goes on!
The thing is, we could do all this and really knuckle down and got the same kind of work we get at home, so absolutely over the moon with her today!
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!)