Friday, March 30, 2012

A Quiet Indoor Ride

Last night I was reading through a little bit of Cow-Horse Confidence by Martin Black. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but I might have found just what I needed to read.  I ended up reading a section on balancing with the horse, and of course in that section Black was constantly talking about quiet hands and giving subtle yet confident cues.  There were definitely moments during my last couple of rides where I was a little more rough than I should have been, and there is no doubt that when Bear gets a little chargy I am not able to help Bear balance.  I think I've gotten to the point where I feel set and balanced myself, but it doesn't really count if my own balance throws off my horse.

So for today's ride I just wanted to focus on moving with Bear and not getting in his way.  I also wanted to be as gentle and consistent as possible.  For the most part, we achieved that.  If I found myself getting frustrated or rushing things, we just took a moment to chill out.

This doesn't mean I was easy on Bear.  I actually demanded quite a bit.  He was not happy to be following the rail for some reason, so I spent a lot of time giving him cues to scoot back on the rail.  He didn't always like it, but he couldn't do much when I would ask for collection and leg-yield him back where I wanted him.  One spot in the arena gave us particular trouble after he got spooked by a black cat jumping off the tack lockers.  We spent a lot of time there resting.  The first half-dozen times or so he would always come off the rail.  I just told myself this was a good time to practice side-passing and backing to get right back where I wanted us.

Our trotting was also quite good.  I know it isn't fair to compare gaits indoors versus outdoors, but I do believe overall his trotting was better today than it was for our last few indoor rides.  So despite my frustrations outside, we have certainly made some progress.  The toughest thing we did at the trot today were some tight figure-eights with a very loose rein (often one-handed, too).  I was paying very close attention to my legs, as I always do, but more than that, I was also trying to notice where the bulk of my bodyweight was.  Black suggests one should have more weight on the outside of the horse's body when it is turning, thus making it easier for them to move to the inside and away from pressure.  So if you are turning a left circle, you should have more weight on your right sit bone and stirrup. Black says he's met a lot of people who don't agree with this method, but he hasn't met a horse who disagrees yet.  Bear definitely agreed.  We had some very relaxed and smooth figure-eights.  He was also giving me a nice, even bend through his whole body, so we'll have to keep working on these, and I'll have to keeping thinking about our balance.

The last exercise we did was the lope one lap, walk one lap drill with Robin and I trying to keep half the arena between us.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  I must say, though, it didn't go as well as it has in the past.  Well, maybe it was just that different things were not going well.  He was very, very energetic at this point and constantly offering to either trot or lope way too early.  He did improve a little bit as he got more tired, but not really that much.  So I was working on asking for lots of soft feels, breathing through my nose, consciously using my hips to tell him we were walking, and things like that.  The good news about the exercise was that our lopes were awesome.  He was so smooth and relaxed while we were running.  It might have partially been due to the fact that I was working hard to keep my weight balanced in a way that made the turns easier on Bear. 

All in all it was a great ride.  We stayed calm, had fun, and did a lot of precision work.  The next couple of days are supposed to be gorgeous, so hopefully we will be out and about again and I can get some pictures.

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