Saturday, December 10, 2011

Still Good

The first ride in the saddle was not some kind of one-time experience.  If anything, Bear was moving and feeling even better today.  And he was equally as stiff coming out of the pasture today as he was yesterday..

Robin and I got to the barn early so we could beat any other potential weekend riders.  It worked, as we had the place to ourselves.  It was cold, but nothing that we couldn't handle.  Adding my fleece neck warmer to my riding outfit worked perfectly.

Bear was quiet and content again.  I groomed and tacked quickly and then took a few minutes to snap some photos of Robin and Steen.  They had beat us by a lot since Robin was going bareback.  Steen was feeling exceptionally energetic today, so Robin was going through some groundwork before she got on.

Steen's been filling up on hay AND getting fit.  He never used to look this big.
We joined them and started by walking on the rail to warm up.  When Bear gets stiff I like to make sure he has adequate time to loosen up.  I would ask for the soft feel at least twice per loop (later on we were getting it more than that), and he was responding much better than yesterday.  We moved up into the trot and Robin said she didn't think she had ever seen him look so relaxed trotting in the indoor arena.  It might have been true, he did feel good.

Again we spent most of the ride trotting.  I added a teeny bit more pressure when asking for the soft feel, and I believe it helped.  We started getting it with some regularity.  Every once in a while it would take us a half a lap or more to get it, but we did always get it.  We went in each direction, spending more time towards the right, and after Bear gave me a series of very quick soft feels I let him rest.  He was looking particularly proud of himself after that.

I let him rest for a minute and then we moved to the middle to walk in some spiraling circles.  Robin used to have us do this last spring when she was giving me lessons.  I was not very good at it.  Now I'm using the exercise with just one hand on the reins and Bear is making significantly better circles than he was back in February.  It felt good.  I really am thinking he can feel my seat better with this new saddle.  Robin would always talk about the connection she would feel with Steen through her sit bones and I never really had that.  I thought I just wasn't riding good enough, but maybe it turns out my seat was just too far off Bear's back for either of us to feel one another.

We ended the ride with continuing to work on the trot and getting a soft feel.  Things were going so well that I started holding the feel and bringing him back into a walk.  I asked for this a few times yesterday to horrible results.  The first few today were better, but not great.  Then all of a sudden he started nailing them going both from the trot to the walk and the walk to the trot.

It didn't last.  But that is OK.  I made sure we ended on a good note with the transitions and then went back to just concentrating on the feel.  Robin ended her ride before me (she started before me, too) and snapped a few nice pictures of us.  This one is a little blurry, but you can really see the excellent collection we were getting at the trot, even with a pretty loose rein.

I'm still feeling the saddle out.  At times I was a teeny bit uncomfortable, but mostly it felt good.   Better than yesterday.  Bear was so good today that he didn't even mind when I paid more attention to the saddle than him.  If I had to rearrange myself in the seat or check on my clanking stirrups, he just kept on trotting in a nice, semi-collected state.

This was also the ride where I hit my 2011 ride goals.  100 hours in the saddle.  I set the goal sometime back in May when I realized I just needed to average 10 hours a month for the rest of the year.  I thought it would be tough, but doable.  It ended up being a little easier than I thought, and that included some unexpected hiccups in the year. I didn't expect July and August to have such low numbers.  But it didn't matter, the fall was gorgeous, and I was really motivated to ride after going to the clinic in September.  I went into December needing only 4 hours to reach the goal.

I'm not sure what my 2012 goal will be.  Maybe 125 hours.  If I actually ride in January and February that would be quite doable.  I think I'll wait until the end of the year before I make any decisions, though.

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