One of my 2017 goals was to take more lessons, and when my trainer was in town for a few days and did a clinic, I jumped on board.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I took a lesson. Summer, maybe. In another life, old me took lessons weekly, and sometimes twice a week. If something came up that made me miss one, I’d handwave it away with a laugh and say, oh, I’ll make it up later, I have plenty of credits! Old me was an asshole.
So: lesson. I’m going to take down a few bullet points as things I need to work on, and have been working on since.
1. Get my goddamn hands out of my goddamn lap. Shorter reins, more over his withers. In order to encourage him to come up and lift through his withers and the base of his neck, in order to create that space between hips and hands to hold collection, THERE HAS TO BE ACTUAL SPACE THERE.
In order to really work on this, I need to let go of the part of my brain that feels like I’m tipping over, leaning forward, not following with my arms enough, because what I need to do is follow WAY more, because it is one thing to follow with long reins and your hands in your lap and another entirely to follow with a careful regular contact and short rein.
2. Stop providing resistance for him to meet. This is one of my old, favorite traps: Tristan is hard-headed and uses his under neck muscle to grind out his frustration, and hoo boy do I take that bait. I’ve risen to that bait for a decade now. We’re like an old married couple except instead of arguing about the dishes we argue about him softening his mouth for, like, one half second, asshole. The thing is: he knows better, I know better, and miracle of miracles, when I refuse to hold up my end of that pattern everything falls apart…and comes back together much better.
3. FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD. ’nuff said.
4. Canter transitions! These were something I’d specifically asked to work on. So, we spent a lot of time breaking down the idea of transitioning on a half-halt, first picking moments and then creating moments in which he was surging up through his back to ask for a canter transition, so that we went forward into the canter with a bouncing, bounding energy. Keeping that in the canter, more half-halts, more encouraging him to lift and carry, then keeping it back down through into the trot.
5. Part and parcel of everything: setting the bridle out in front of me and then sending him forward into it. Elementary, and yet: sigh. Still working on it.
Sometimes, honestly, I despair that I have been riding this horse for ten years and I still more or less suck at it, but other times I think of everything else I’ve learned and – it’s probably even.