Monday before last, I rode at Columbia on Handsome. Let's just say it wasn't my best lesson ever though Kristy told me a lot of it looked to be me being too tense and getting frustrated with myself because things weren't going perfectly and really, I looked fine if I'd just relax. Near the end, I started to get to that point, but still, I felt like I could have done better.
This past Monday, I rode him again and our ride was about a million times better. One of Handsome's little things he does to entertain himself in lessons is to vary the speed he's moving at. Not change gaits, just...slow trot faster trot slow trot faster trot, and so on. That didn't happen so much, or maybe I was just more aware of it and able to keep him at a steadier pace. We also did a little jumping and that was also much easier, though I still only got him to canter out once. I still haven't really gotten "keeping leg on" while being up in two-point. Too much to think about all at once!
The lesson ended on a notsogreat note, though, when one of the other riders fell going over the jump. She probably would have been fine if she'd hit dirt but she hit the standard instead and it knocked the wind out of her and, I think, she sprained her ankle. Will probably find out what all exactly happened tomorrow when I go in for the Monday lesson.
Also, Tuesday before last I went up to Gentle Giants and rode Treadway who I believe I've blogged about before. Also not one of my better rides on him. I was riding in the dressage saddle they have (in anticipation of a dressage lesson I took today) but the stirrups were too long (on the shortest hole and wrapped twice and still just a bit too long so I kept pushing my feet forward in them) and the way the saddle is, it encourages one to sit up more on their crotch. Which, I guess, is better for dressage, but on Treadway?
See, he used to be a fairly highish level eventer and his owner taught him to go faster or slower based off of her seat. So if you sit back on your seatbones, he'll go at a reasonable pace. But if you tilt your pelvis forward? He starts speeding up. You don't even have to have leg on him. So basically, Christine said it looked like he was running away with me (at the trot), though he did break into a canter once (the first time ever with me). It ended up being a fairly frustrating experience.
This past Wednesday night, I went back up to GG to ride but took Big Red out for a spin instead. It was kind of nice to ride a horse you have to use leg on to get to move. :)
Thursday (New Year's Day), was a big New Year's auction up in Thurmont that Christine wanted to go to in hopes of finding a draft or two who needed saving. It turned out there were no drafts at the auction (out of ~100 horses), but there were a few draft crosses (or, as near as we could tell, they looked it). There were three horses we ended up figuring we'd try and bid on. 1) The most adorable drafty large pony (small horse, actually) thing I've ever seen. 2) Something that looked liked a cross between a Clydesdale and a Standardbred. 3) A possible Fjord cross.
We ended up with the first guy and the person we were bidding against is a known horse dealer who likely would've been hauling the poor pony up to New Holland on Monday. Anyway, he's fat and fuzzy and possibly blind in one eye and probably about twenty but he's the most willing little guy ever and has a funny gray patch over the top of his neck.
Christine ended up not going for the Clyde cross because, if I recall right, she was worried it wasn't actually sound. The Fjord ended up getting bidded to out of our price range and went to what looked like a good home, so that's good. :) One of the last horses of the night, however, was this poor Thoroughbred mare that nobody seemed interested in and Christine took pity on her. The mare's only 12 and her racing name was Our Sister Gina (OSG). She goes w/t/c, auto changes, and jumps! Somebody put the training into her so it's kind of amazing she ended up where she did.
The same goes for the Big Grey Pony (BGP). He goes w/t/c, is completely unflappable (so far), and if you point him over a jump, he'll do his darndest for you. It wouldn't suprise me if he was somebody's hunter pony or something once upon a time. Another one we can't figure out how he ended up at auction because he's just that awesome.
So anyway, both new horses got ridden yesterday. Laura the instructor rode OSG and was very impressed with her. Nick the farrier already is in love with her and it's likely that they'll be adopting her.
I got to ride the BGP and I am in love with him! If you'd asked me what kind of horse I wanted even a week ago I never would have described this one (save that he's grey) but he's just so cool.
And then today. Today was the dressage lesson. I'd won it back early in December at a silent auction GG held during their wine tasting fundraiser. The lesson was donated by Hilary Moore. And she was gracious enough to come out to GG to give it instead of making us haul Treadway out to where she is. I think that's kind of awesome, personally. :)
Anyway, I've talked before about how riding Treadway is complicated, even though he's a great guy. So we explained about his history to Hilary and I explained what I was looking to get out of the lesson (that I've been riding a while but at a place that does a lot of hunter/jumper stuff so dressage isn't really emphasized but it's something I've been interested in and want to learn more about). She started me out with Treadway just getting him to walk relaxed (because generally, once he gets going, he wants to get moving and then I have to hold him in with my hands....or so I thought) and then to walk->halt transitions and back up to a walk again. She had me do this by just keeping a light contact with the rein and instead squeezing with my seat and upper thigh (but keeping my calf off!) and eventually? He stopped! Once he held still, I let him walk again and we repeated till he would stop reliably. He learned that I had learned his language, more or less.
Then we did it in the other direction. Once that was going well, she had me move him up to the trot and then we worked on trot to walk transitions. Then, once he was reliably listening to me, she had me rate my posting so if I sped up posting, he'd speed up trotting, if I slowed my posting, he'd slow his trot. It was the first time I ever felt a horse do that (it may have happened in the past, but I wasn't looking for it so I can't point to it as an experience). Finally, after we both seemed relaxed and in control, she had me take him up to a canter and then do canter->trot transitions. This was more difficult but not as bad as I'll admit I anticipated. Once we'd done all of this both directions, she went out of the middle of the ring and hand me go from walk to trot to canter in both directions on my own initiative. That is, she wasn't telling me when to do it, I had to decide to do it myself. The idea being how you know you can go to a lesson and you think you get it (this goes for just about anything) but then you get home or try it later and it doesn't work how you remember? This was was my chance to try it "on my own" and then ask questions about what worked or didn't.
It wasn't as successful as it was when she was in the middle of the ring, but we weren't terrible either. It's just a lot of work to have to do all the remembering of what you're supposed to do at any given time! :) Plus, we were both getting tired by that point so that made it more difficult too to get things done properly. One thing I noticed is it became harder to use my leg and I started relying more on my hands which didn't help things. Still and all, we ended up on a pretty "up" note and I'm pleased.
Oh, most of the time she also had us going in a large circle around her instead of up and down the long straight sides of the arena. This partly helped rate his speed and also required me to work at getting him to bed, so I also had to remember to use my inside leg to push him "out" while using my inside rein to bring his head in just a bit. Also probably the first time I've really used my leg to try to move him somewhere side ways (so to speak) and it didn't cause him to speed up.
Anyway, it was a really good lesson and I'm glad I took it. Though it does look like someone is thinking about adopting Treadway in the relatively near future so I don't know how often I'll be riding him, it's all stuff I can use with other horses, I think. I mean, my big reason for wanting to learn more about dressage is to learn to ride more quietly and I definitely manage to accomplish that with Treadway today. :)
Lastly, I ended up at the end of the day getting the BGP out of the field and bringing him in to get groomed. He can't get really clean until it's warm enough to bathe (and I'm disgusted somebody ran him through the auction ring without cleaning him up first) but I was able to get some dirt off him and clean out his feet and make his tail not-tangly. I really adore this guy and am thinking I might want him for myself.
Though Christina the instructor also mentioned that they (or she at least?) was hoping one of her students (a little girl who's been taking lessons on the lesson pony there) would want to adopt her (or rather, her parents). I can't get in the way of a little girl and her first pony but I can keep my fingers crossed that they can't end up getting him, right? :)
And after all of that? Have a picture of the BGP's adorable face!