A New Old Friend

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So today I was lucky enough to ride two horses. Firstly, I had a schooling session with Miss Katie. Things went a lot better today than they did on Wednesday, and I’m wondering if some of the issue is that she works better outdoors. Since the weather became nicer our rides have been better, and she seems to work better in one particular ring more than others. Strange, but true. Today I started off with some long and low trot, before moving to some flexion in and out on the circle. Again Katie was a little reluctant to flex to the left, but eventually softened a bit. From there we did quite a bit of trot work – mostly transitions from trot to walk or halt and back, and many serpentines and circles. While Katie and I were cutting a nice figure by this point (my coach who was riding in the next ring even said we did), she was fairly heavy on my hands. I felt like I was holding the whole thing together by force, rather than it coming together naturally. I just need to start finding a way to let her carry herself more on her own. I think she’s the type of horse though where you’re always going to feel a little more pressure in your hands, no matter what… But then again, I know she is capable of lightness from the few rides that we’ve had where we’ve actually attained it, so I need to keep striving. I think I really just need to use an obscene amount of leg. More, more, more. And same with Charles, as I’ll get to in a minute. Our canter work today was pretty good though – she was extremely responsive to my aids, and was together and maintained the canter full-school, through circles and through a serpentine exercise. She is getting stronger!

Moving on from Katie, I had a really fun lesson on one of my coach’s horses afterwards. He is the handsome chestnut pictured at the top and bottom of this post. Charlie is a 14 year old warmblood, who I like to call Charles or Charleston, and who my coach likes to Chuckie or Chuck. My coach acquired Charlie from her coach about a year ago because he wasn’t getting ridden by anyone at her place. Her daughter used to ride him but he drove her nuts and eventually forced her to take a hiatus from riding. As one can presume from such a scenario, Charlie can be a little difficult. It’s not that Charlie is mean or anything, he just has very different buttons from any other horse. I rode him a couple of times last summer when my coach first got him and when he was extremely green. I also rode him in a dressage clinic last fall, but haven’t ridden him since. My coach has worked him a lot since the fall though, and he has noticeably improved. His canter isn’t so difficult to pick up anymore and his transitions are generally smoother. Charlie used to get “stuck” a lot, ie. he would refuse to move forward, and he does that very little now.

In any case, moving on from Charlie’s life story, I’m going to reflect a little on my ride. I didn’t ride him for too long today because he had a bit of swelling in one leg and seemed mildly off. I’m hoping to ride him again Monday though, and if that goes well I may get to ride him until I head off for school in the fall, because my coach is busy working with a client’s horse preparing for the Trillium dressage eastern championship. As soon as I got on Chuck the first thing I noticed is how good he felt size-wise. After riding a very round horse, and a horse that’s too small for me for so long, it felt great to ride a horse that I know “fits” me. I did some serpentines at the walk to warm-up and to keep his attention away from his buddies in the field. From there my coach had me push him into a long-and-low trot. While he was much easier to direct than before, he kept trying to gradually drift inwards, especially on 20-metre circles. I was using my inside leg, but I definitely could have been using it more. My coach also commented that my spur was getting him a bit, and that my legs looked too busy. She said to use my calf exclusively, which I had difficulties with. I went home and proceeded to do a leg work out after my rides today! I need to build more strength in my legs so that my rides improve!

Another thing that clearly needed work was the use of my outside aids in general. Charles isn’t as straightforward as Katie or Q and needs a lot more support to stay balanced and go nicely. When we started doing some light canter work, it at first seemed like we were going to topple right over! However, after I sat deeper in the saddle and tried my best to support him with my outside leg, things went way better. The transitions were surprisingly good… but the cues themselves are so different than I’m used to! Rather than sliding the outside leg back, and squeezing lightly with the inside, all that is required is to squeeze with the inside and give a slight kiss. Charlie doesn’t react well to that outside leg sliding too far back. He picked up his canter great once his trot was balanced and I followed my coach’s directions, but it still felt a little odd to being doing so little to get the canter! I think I can improve the canter, and trot, by picking up a little more contact next time and riding him more through with my legs. Better keep up my squats, lunges and calf-lifts! If anyone knows of any good workouts for the busy rider, please let me know!

Have a great weekend and happy riding!

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