I had my first ride in Texas on Echo last night. It was short and sweet, and he was really good! It was also his first time out of an arena, to my knowledge.
Shiny Giant Pony.
We have access to a couple of arenas, but we do not currently have one at Wyvern Oaks (it’s on the list). Unfortunately, since we had to unpack from hubby’s week-long medieval reenactment event Sunday, and re-pack for the jousting show at Pin Oak Charity Horse Show last night, we didn’t have time to haul anywhere. Since Echo has proven to have a great brain, we decided that a very short trail ride – with his new BFF and security blanket, Cash – would be OK.
Bad Pawing Pony.
And it was great! Hubby held Echo while I got on using a stepstool, and Echo was totally fine with that. He even stood quietly for a few moments after I got on! Hubby took Cash out with us, but almost immediately, Echo passed him and took the lead (Cash is a bit slow these days, and Echo also has loooong legs). Echo clearly doesn’t understand about following the trail – a wide grass track – but was happy to go where directed. He looked left and right but didn’t spook at the fallen log, rock pile, or trail sign that we went by. He had one moment where he sort of flinched in place at some monster only seen by a certain dark bay horse, but he didn’t actually go anywhere. Good boy!
After a few minutes of walking, we came to the fenceline and turned to head for home. We had to walk into the tall grass at the side of the trail to do this, and he wasn’t quite sure that this was a good idea, but he stepped off the path and let the grass brush his legs after a miniscule hesitation. The walk back was equally uneventful, and he even stopped and stood for a few moments while we waited for Cash to catch up with us. Hooray! This bodes well for future trail rides, which are just the precursor to cross-country and foxhunting rides. Next time I’m hoping to take Reddums as a buddy instead, since he’s faster and even more Feerless than Cash.
So back to my lesson on Saturday. The working student who has been riding him has installed a lovely walk-trot and trot-canter transition. I, however, wasn’t as demanding and allowed him to sort of flop into his transitions. He’s a bit on the low-energy side, so I need to be clear in my demands and really mean it, or I’m going to have a lot to fix later. I also have to NOT be afraid to go to my bat if he doesn’t respond or I feel him about to break – I really swatted him once and he didn’t bat an eye, so I need to be confident that he’s not going to blast away from me if I go for the whip.
When I’m turning him, I need to make extra sure I’m turning him with my whole body – hips, shoulders, BOTH legs (esp the outside), head, and reins. He’s not a made horse where I can be subtle and expect him to follow my weight shifts and stay upright underneath me – not that I have to steer hard, but I have to be really obvious and clear in my aids. This will be good practice for me in keeping myself correct!
There are a number of position things I need to work on too. I have a tendency to chicken-wing over fences, and I also carry my elbows away from my body on the flat, instead of just letting my arms hang relaxed from my shoulders. I realized yesterday at work that I tend to rest my forearms on my desk as I type, which pulls my elbows out. I’ve changed my position at work so hopefully that will help me re-train my body to behave better. I also need to sit softer when I post. This is something that Paige was working on me with for H/J stuff, so I need to focus on this more. Finally, I am riding backwards when the horse falls in. What I mean is that I’m opening the outside rein and shifting my weight and hips to the outside. Of course this just makes them fall in more! Instead I need a steady outside rein, weight to my INSIDE stirrup, and hips/thighs supporting on the inside. I have been given explicit instructions to find a good dressage trainer, STAT. ;)
And finally, the biggest take-away from the lesson is that I must always, ALWAYS think FORWARD. I need to ride the transitions very forward, I need to ask for a big, free, swinging, FORWARD walk at all times, especially in the corners. We did a small X a few times and he was very good, if a bit wiggly due to pilot error (that whole turning thing again). However, I am riding up to the fence and not after it, so I need to think FORWARD after the fence. Planning to land in the canter and canter away from every fence, then partway down the long side of the arena, is a Good Thing. Echo (and I) need to believe that the answer to every problem is to go forward, and then most of our problems will solve themselves.
Unfortunately we are gone for the next two days to Pin Oak, so no Echo rides. But I’ll report from the jousting tournament and horse show, so stay tuned!