Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back in the saddle!

So after about two months of no riding, I got back on (finally!) on Sunday. I admit, I was a little afraid, even though I hadn't injured myself in a fall off my horse. Just...I kept thinking, "but he hasn't been in work at all and what if he's all wiggy and stupid and I fall and break my collarbone even worse or something OMG maybe I shouldn't."

Still, I had scheduled Sunday as a lesson so with Jessica there keeping an eye on us, I got on and we actually had a nice ride. Just walking and trotting and going over poles but it was good and Kieran was very careful with me, if a bit lazy, actually. We're definitely both out of shape though!

Our ring looked something like this:

Basically, the ones in the upper left corner we were supposed to do on a circle (and as the lesson went on, Jessica began raising the poles so alternate sides were lifted), the ones in the middle were spaced kind of weird so Kieran had to really pay attention to where he put his feet (like, short short short trot, long long, short short), and then the ones on the right were to start with, they were spaced pretty much perfectly for his usual trot stride.

So after we warmed up, she had us go over the poles on the right, then a few times through the ones in the middle. Kieran never had a problem with them, hah. Then we started doing the stuff in the corner and it was like, she had us start by circling around the outside of the poles, not going over them, until I had him in a really good trot and on a good bend, and then I could push him over into a smaller circle to go over the poles. He was generally pretty good and i was really pleased. It turned out to be a really good "return to riding" after our long break. :)

However, we've decided for at least the forseeable future, to try to go to doing two lessons a week instead of just one, so we can get back in the groove again. As such, we had another lesson tonight.

The poles were more or less set up the same way as above, except the ones on the right were spaced as canter poles and the ones in the middle were spaced so that the lower ones were spaced for trotting and the last three were spaced for cantering. We didn't use the ones in the corner.

So I got there early and spent about fifteen minutes getting warmed up and ready, we did a lot of walking (chicken!) and some trotting, mostly weaving around the poles and things in the arena and circles and things like that and really focusing on staying on the rail when we were out there because he likes to drift inward as we get closer to the corners so he can cut them.

When Jessica got there, she had us start by trotting through the poles and even spaced out as they were, Kieran went through like no big deal. After doing that a couple times, she moved into the canter part of the lesson (and I must've asked her like three times, "you're really going to have us canter?". i just had visions of sliding off his side or him getting humpy from the non-work and grouchy about cantering and doom but of course he was a gentleman the whole time). I don't remember exactly what came first, either she had us canter both ways around the ring with me in two point or she first had us do the right-pole exercise of cantering over them. Probably we did the flat canter first, then did the poles, but I'm seriously drawing a blank.

Anyway, he cantered over those poles just like he'd trotted over everything, no big deal. So we started on the middle exercise...

Basically, he was to trot in to the trot poles, and then in the middle where the distance shifts, I was to have him canter out. This is something where we'd have to be really on the aids and I'd have to be thinking ahead and preparing before we actually get to the point of "okay, you should canter now!" or it'd all fall apart. Anyway, we got it just about perfect on the first try. Both Jessica and I were shocked, but Kieran got tons of praise. I still remember the feeling of him immediately picking up the canter where I asked him to. :)

After that, he got a bit of a walk break and then Jessica had us come in to the middle pole exercise from the other side. This way, we have to canter in, then go down to a trot in the middle. This is difficult because once K figures we're doing "cantering through the poles!" he thinks he's figured it out and tends to just...do what he thinks we're supposed to do instead of listening to me. :|

And indeed, a couple times through and that's basically what he did, "hey, we canter over these poles right? OKAY I'LL CANTER OVER ALL OF THEM." And the jerk didn't even touch any of the trot-spaced poles as he cantered through them, LOL.

So we went back to doing a bunch of trot and canter circles in the corner until I finally, finally felt him really listen to me and kind of get light in my hands and I rode him in to the poles and, well, it wasn't perfect, but he really did listen and did the transition when I asked him for it instead of continuing to canter through. So even though the lesson still had 10-15 minutes left, we more or less ended on that note, and just spent a while walking around and making sure he was all cooled out since it's chilly tonight.

I figure, if he follows true to form, if we try that exercise again this weekend, he'll have it down pat. He's not a horse that really does well in endless drilling, I've found. He gets bored. And if he does it mostly right one time and you tell him what a good boy he is, he'll get it even better when you go back to it later. I think he needs to let things percolate around in his little brainz for a day or two to get them. :)

And on that note, one more thing that needed percolating was lateral movement, apparently. Or, well, before our break, we'd been having hit or miss with me getting him to side-pass. A lot of times, it would be like, "you want me to forward, right? back? what the heck lady?" and finally he'd do like one step to the side and sort of crossing over and we'd be like, "that was it! good boy!" and have to end there lest we both continue to get frustrated with each other.

Anyway, while we were warming up, I asked him to step over to the left a few steps and it was like, an immediate sideways movement instead of the backward/forward dance we used to do before. It was beautiful. So after the lesson, I showed Jessica (didn't want to do it in the middle in case it was a fluke and messing up the good vibe we had going). So I first showed her going to the left, then I came back around to her and halted him and was going to ask him to go to the right but he started stepping over to the left again without any direction from me. This horse really does figure stuff out and think he knows what I want and try to give it to me before I ask for it. Which is, you know, both a good thing (yay, he's interested and learning things) and a bad thing (boo, he's anticipating and gets frustrated when his "right answer" isn't actually the right answer). Anyway, I just stopped him like it was no big deal and asked for the step over to the right and got a few.

Was it perfect? Nope, but it was light years better than it used to be, I'm so proud of him. :)

Anyway, I'm just really excited to be back riding again and I can't wait to see where things go!