No, not me. I am decidedly mediocre (on a good day) at this horse riding thing.
I’m talking about my instructor at big barn. She is better than good, she is so so good at what she does.
I waltzed into Saturday’s lesson feeling a little out of practice since it had been a few weeks since my last lesson at big barn. I had a lesson at little barn on Monday night but sometimes, due to circumstances beyond that instructor’s control, I feel like those lessons can be detrimental to certain aspects of my riding- particularly the canter. The horses I ride at little barn (not always the same one) take a little bit of convincing to promptly pick up the canter. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a huge training issue to work on, but the combination of that, and my own struggle with correctly asking for the canter, is starting to produce more negatives than positives. I am developing a mental block towards cantering and, clearly, the horses aren’t improving.
Now I know I have already complained about the canter more than once on this blog but today I am going to talk about how amazing it is when it works.
I spent a good portion of my big barn lesson on Saturday working on my seat. In other words, NOT riding like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have to *think* lean back slightly. It pretty much feels like I’m leaning back the whole time right now as I try to make this feel like the new “normal”. Then once I was legitimately better balanced over the horse, we worked on contact and played with the feel of impulsion and contact. I love working on this because I like the feeling of when you finally ease the front and back half of the horse together. As she said, Louie (draft x) is no ballerina, but I swear there were moments in there when you could have fooled me!
I perpetuate stupid habits when I am not paying attention like throwing away my contact to ask for an upward transition or crunching my back to ask for a halt. My instructor artfully worked me through paying attention to all of that crap at one time and the results (however brief) were wonderful. She never lets me get away with it and thus I become hyperaware and make the changes myself. She pushes me and rewards me appropriately like she’s training a young horse. We revisit things I have forgotten time and time again and if she is ever frustrated by the constant repetition or lack of progress, she never shows it. It is just really great.
But I digress…
The canter. After putting in the lesson time to connect the pieces of the puzzle, we worked on some canter departs from a sitting trot. I totally botched the first one- which is typical lately. My instructor patiently explained that I needed to ask firmer the next time around and not let him think that what he had given me (faster trot) was what I was asking for. So at the next corner I was clearer and Louie picked up a nice prompt canter. I tried to focus on not getting left behind and sitting up nice and straight. On our downward transitions I focused on sitting up and producing a sit-able trot right away. It felt so nice to get prompt canter departs, and have a solid feeling of control in my seat to ask for balanced downward transitions.
It does a student good to get it right once in a while. Those moments make slogging through learning tough new things completely worth the effort.