It’s fun to post about special events and new accomplishments, but I find it harder to post frequently because I feel like I’d always be writing “So, I rode my horse again… it went pretty well.. we worked on pretty much the same as yesterday…” and how boring would that blog be? But then someone will ask me a question that makes me realize how much more than that actually goes into a daily ride. So what does it look like on a day to day basis? Well, here’s a clip from my ride on Remy the other day:
We were working on making the trot adjustable, which he loves, while keeping it balanced and controlled. If I just let him GO! he would, happily, and then he’d lose balance or tire, fall on the forehand, and continue to run but not in such a pretty way. So instead I sent him forward, bring him back, send him forward again, bring him back again. Eventually one of those transitions will fail, and I have to make a decision. If he is losing engagement of one of his hind legs, a shoulder-in is usually a good fix, if he’s become braced against the outside rein, I’ll do a few steps of haunches-out to remind him to stay soft and connected. If he stalls in the upward transition, I might throw in a canter circle. Or if he just feels like he’s getting tired, I do a walk or halt transition so I can praise him and take a break.
It’s an ongoing process of using the tools in the box, constantly adjusting to whatever is happening at the moment. I usually have a general plan for the ride, but it gets modified by what my horse feels like. If he’s still tired from yesterday, we will have a stretchy-bendy day and just move around to loosen and supple, stretching the tired muscles and giving them a rest. Occasionally he feels WAY too good, and those days we end up either doing lots of BIG trots, or lots of canter work. Trying to force him to stay quiet and collected when he’s bursting with energy can be a losing battle, so I’ll work in little bits just to check that he’s still listening to me, but then I won’t make him do tedious work for extended periods of time. But on a normal day, he shows up ready to work, focused and settled and willing to go with whatever program I had in mind. With him I always have to do bending work since that is one of his hardest things. Lateral work is easy for him, so I mix in plenty to help him build strength and balance. I also use a lot of transition to keep him paying attention and carrying himself. By blending carefully day after day, being sure not to neglect any pieces of the level he is working at, he builds strength and the pieces get easier. As they get easy, I begin to introduce new pieces, just asking him to make an effort to try, and not so much worrying if it turns out the first time. When I reward his efforts, he begins to understand what I want and his confidence grows, so then when we try again a few days later he gives me a slightly better version of the new work. I use the levels and tests to guide his development, but I also let him tell me. The pieces he finds easy would bore him if I drilled them to much, so I move on to harder things. Whatever is hard I try to break down into smaller pieces or go back a step to help it make sense to him. This way he stays interested and progressing without getting overfaced or frustrated!