I did, indeed, get to borrow a horse and ride in the clinic on Friday last week. I rode a lovely bay named Z who could be a little balky just at the beginning of a ride but once he got going he was entirely game and cooperative for everything. He took more leg than Eli, and liked a much stronger feel in the bridle, too, so I was whupped by the end. I forget how light Eli is until I sit on basically anything else.
I rode in a group with two other adult amateurs, and we are all reasonably competent on good days, so the flat work focus was lateral work.
We worked on moving the shoulders and the haunches, both of which are important skills to have while jumping if you expect to keep your horse balanced through turns. In moving both the haunches and the shoulder to the right, Z seemed a bit stiff, and I struggled with getting it done. However, moving each to the left, it was a breeze. I think he knew what I was asking both ways. Perhaps my cues were weaker to the right, or perhaps he is just a stiffer horse on the right … probably a little of both.
These skills came into play once we moved on to first cantering over a pole on a small circle — honestly I have no idea how big the circle was, but it did seem smaller than 20m. And then it seemed even smaller once the pole was a vertical (haha). Everyone was able to get it done both directions for the most part, although I was never able to make the nearest inside turn going to the left. I think by then I was just really freaking tired. Z certainly still had plenty of energy left. He got his feet packed and lots of cookies. I know I will be able to use what I learned on Z when I ride Eli. Plus Eli is balanced a little more uphill than Z is, so maybe it will be a little easier for us. The clinician had a couple of tips about the seat and leg in lateral work that will really help me going forward with Eli, things that I had not tried before. I was able to do a little of these things at the walk with Eli, and he figured them out very quickly and was very responsive.
The first issue was when using my seat and leg in conjunction to move the haunches I struggled with sitting on the same hip as the leg, and found when using, for example, my right leg I wanted to sit on my left hip, but needed to be sitting on my right hip. Kathleen explained I have to kind of pull myself down into the saddle with my upper calf and lower inner thigh like doing a sitting trot … ugh, I can’t quite get what she said down into words but I knew what she meant and it worked, tip number one helps me immensely!
The next issue was related to a quarter turn on the haunches, which I do practice with Eli periodically. However, I had not realized in trying to execute this that the horse taking a step back is okay, but the horse taking a step forward is an evasion. I had it the opposite in my head for some reason and could not think of why I thought that (probably because in general I tend to want the horse to go forward first before anything else). I also need to SLOW DOWN when doing lateral work since we are in the early stages of learning it, so I can feel each step and Eli has enough time to coordinate each step. We don’t need lateral work for competition, so the slowing down thing makes perfect sense to me.
I didn’t get any media of me on Z but at least I am getting this all down on “paper.” That kind of helps me remember it better. I am glad I choose to sit Eli out, because he would not have been able to do the left circle over a pole/vertical comfortably. I may try it with him after the maintenance does its job.
In other news, Eli approves of the Amigo quarter sheet I got him and has now worn it twice without incident. He will be off work until Saturday because of his stifle injections, but the weather is very cold and wet right now so I don’t really mind the break from riding.