11.11.13: Long Lesson

I headed to the pasture to fetch Storm for the first time since our last lesson, and found him quite dirty. I groomed as best I could to get the dirt off the important parts (where the saddle sits!) and got him tacked up and we headed for the arena. I set him up to long line since it had been so long since our last ride, and with all the issues we'd been having I wanted to make sure he was feeling ok and moving well. He settled right into the work easily, and looked really good doing so. We didn't spend long going to the left before switching to the right. He struggled to the right, and so I allowed him to work there longer until he settle down and became quiet. It didn't take him long, and after about 15 minutes of ground work, we got set up to ride. I realized the thing I forgot on my way down was my whip, so I had to make the trek back up to the barn to grab it.
He cooperated very nicely to allow me up, and so I got settle in to ride. Kirsten had Nancy and I drop our stirrups to work on really feeling where the ball is. She helped us to place our legs long around the ball so that we could really feel what was going on with the horse's barrel and the ball. Storm was doing very well, though I was having trouble feeling the box all the time. He was responding nicely, and the changes were getting really subtle. Kirsten gave me another visual reference by checking to see if I could see a bulge in Storm's neck, if the bulge of the bottom of his neck is visible, then he is cheating just a little bit. It took me a while of experimenting to feel like I could tell the difference in his neck and feel the difference under my seat. He was working hard, and stretching more than he normally does. It was easier to feel things in the seat without the stirrups, and make the corrections more subtle and sooner rather than waiting until he was already so far out of balance. Kirsten encouraged me to use halt transitions as well to help him rebalance if he was getting so far out of balance that it took a massive amount of effort to get him back into balance.
Nancy and I had been riding for about an hour before she finally asked Kirsten is she could pick up her stirrups again (I think about the same time Kirsten suggested that she could trot if she wanted!). I realized how tired my legs were from all the work and focus, and was grateful to have my stirrups back as well. Kirsten helped me to find a really good position, and find the same type of feel that the lack of stirrups had given. The position was comfortable, and felt good against the horse, and made it pretty easy to find the ball and offer support and keep him from pushing me out of the way and losing balance.
Kirsten encouraged us to work on trotting as well, and using the halt, and then moving forward out of the halt into a trot. The first several attempts were a bit rough, and didn't get to the trot, that was ok though because the walk was greatly improved. We worked a little more, and found the trot work, and Storm started out doing pretty well. Kirsten and I talked more about finding the diagonal and how to identify the diagonal as the horse trots and know which one you are on. I explained what Shelley had worked with us on, and Kirsten helped give me clarity on how to also identify that through the movement of the shoulders. The more resources to identify what is going on the easier it is to make sure that you are on the diagonal that you intend to be on. Kirsten also explained that she does not always want to be on the rise of the inside hind, sometimes she wants to sit with the inside hind to allow the horse more stability and help them load that inside hind leg. So it is important to know which diagonal that you want to be rising to, but there is no complete right or wrong. And while learning, just rising effectively is better than fussing with it!
She helped me to practice and do what I felt, and then try to sort out which diagonal I was on to see if I could identify it, and know what it felt to be on the inside diagonal versus outside diagonal. I was guessing wrong about as many times as I guessed correctly. Kirsten encouraged me to keep feeling it and keep trying to sort it out and see if I could figure things out. I headed around the circle again with Storm, and asked him to trot again, and he stepped up into the trot, and then I felt him surge a bit and almost push into a canter when he humped up and jumped forward a few times. I was pitched forward, and so I reached down to brace against his neck, which released the rein pressure, which caused him to stop. Kirsten laughed and called "well ridden!" and asked me what happened as I gathered the reins and came back around to the other side of the arena. He was objecting to something, and Kirsten and I both suspected he'd been working for a while to the right, which is his weak side, and he might have just been cooked. So I changed directions and we practiced to the left and worked to find the feel in the new direction again. I was still guessing half wrong, but was getting some time to really develop the feel. Storm was really getting tired, so it was hard to keep him going, but he was really trying hard for me, and being so patient with all my flopping around.
Ellen finally arrived with her horses after what felt like for ever, and Nancy and I both slid down. My legs were shot! I took Storm back up to the barn and we untacked and then grazed for a while relaxing after the long lesson. I turned Storm out in to the pasture again, and he hung around at the gate while I loved on him for a bit more before I headed to put away all of our tack and things and go find some breakfast!
Next Page:
11.11.19: Putting Humpty Back Together Again