Monday, August 9, 2010

On Riding, and a Funny Gadget Story

I hope you had rideable weather this past weekend! In Virginia, we had pretty nice weather (low 90’s, bearable humidity) so I was happy. On Saturday I went to the barn and got Buckshot ready to ride. I was ready to try cantering in big circles! Well, as often happens, just after you make big plans, things change. There were more people in the arena, so I couldn’t do quite what I planned to do. We had a good warm up and worked on some exercises and patterns. I worked on riding deep into the corners, inspired by posts by Carol at her blog, Dressage Training Journal. (See her interesting training blog here Dressage Training Journal) ). I decided to try and canter a circle using half of the arena (since the other half was being used by other riders). We did pretty well at it, but the funniest thing happened! As I was riding a circle to the right, I noticed that each time my butt contacted the saddle, I felt a ping in my shoulder! What was that?? I kept going, at least to finish one circle. Goodness! Nothing hurt after cantering, but that was a strange sensation. The BO came out and watched me canter, so I asked for some feedback. She said I was doing well, and to keep working on staying in the saddle, and that she could see I was trying very hard, and that that was good. That was fair feedback; I could feel more bounce in my seat than I want to have. After a cool down, we joined several riders on a long trail ride, which was a nice change of pace, both for me and for Buckshot.

After giving it more thought later on Saturday, I decided that I was just a bit too ambitious to do circles, and that I still needed to focus on my seat at the canter. So on Sunday, I went back, renewed and committed to the seat. I’ll get back to circling in a bit. This day, Buckshot and I had the arena to ourselves. We started our warm up, and did a variety of exercises and patterns. When I felt he was listening to me and had some impulsion, I was ready to try a canter. I readied my aids (legs adjusted, reins slightly adjusted, verbal “are you ready?” cues) as we walked around the corner of the arena. Buckshot responded and started cantering. I thought/yelled to myself down the entire side of the arena “Twist! Twist! Twist!” as I made my butt slide back and forth, while my upper body moved forward and backward with his movement. It worked! My seat stayed in contact with the saddle much better! After a brief rest, I tried it again – ready my aids, ask for the canter, and “Twist! Twist! Twist!” yelling in my mind, so that I would keep my focus on just one thing! (Of course, I was still steering along the rail.) And it worked again! It was helping!! Hooray! The BO came out and I asked her to observe and give feedback, and she gave me good feedback about staying in the saddle much better. She also gave me feedback that Buckshot looked comfortable and balanced at the canter. All very good to know, since I really can’t tell if he is looking okay, from my seat overhead in the saddle. We continued working on the canter several more times, successfully.

So I will keep using my “Twist! Twist!” technique to help me, hoping for that wonderful, but elusive muscle memory to kick in. Someday I’ll be able to think two thoughts while I’m actually cantering!!

Now, for my funny story about gadgets. I have taken to carrying a dressage whip when riding Buckshot in recent months. It had been for those very occasional moments when he thinks he’d like the gait of, say, a statue. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, he can be, momentarily, very stubborn about taking one step forward. Usually a light tap on his shoulder is all the reminder he needs and he resumes walking.

Why, you say, have I been carrying a dressage whip? I know it sounds ludicrous!! LOL. (And here I am with a western saddle, with an English bridle, wearing my neutral blue jeans, my Troxel helmet, and a dressage whip, on a clearly-Western-looking Appaloosa! Very funny picture, now that I write it down….) Well, I bought the dressage whip from Tack for a Day a few months ago (they had a good sale on two dressage whips for a low price) and they are very nice – about four feet long, with a small lash on the end, and a very good rubber handle. I use them with the groundwork that Buckshot and I do. So I had been carrying it into the arena, and using it with our clicker training before I mount, and really just using it to direct him around the arena on the ground by pointing ahead of us. When I mounted, I just kept holding onto the whip and would ride with it. But it was too long; if I moved my hand very much, the end of it could inadvertently touch his flanks when I did not mean to do so. And 98% of the time I rode, I didn’t need it. It became a bit of a pain, to adjust my hands and reins, and watch out for his flanks, all for a one-or two-second tap.

So I decided what I really needed was a telescoping crop or whip – one that could safely go into my pocket when not needed, but was available when I needed it. So I thought of something that fit the bill – a meeting pointer, a silver metal telescoping pointer used (in the old days) by a presenter at a meeting for pointing to things on a slide show screen. I had one tucked away somewhere, so I dug it out and took it with me to the barn. I showed it carefully to Buckshot before we rode, showing him how it gets big, then gets little, and how gentle it is when it touches him. He wasn’t worried about it, in fact, he was only mildly interested. So I started to ride with it. What a great idea, I thought!

In actuality – what a pain! When I needed it, I had to stop, dig it out of my pocket, stretch it out, and then, tap his shoulder. My tap finally occurred about 30 seconds after he had done something needing a tap! He had long forgotten whatever he had done by the time I tapped him. Needless to say, I only used it that day. And nobody saw me use it, thank goodness. It is now thrown back into the junk drawer. Then I went and bought what I should have used all along, a regular crop! It works great!

What crazy ideas I sometimes come up with! LOL! If you had done something like that, share it (I won’t feel so bad)!


Story said...

"And here I am with a western saddle, with an English bridle, wearing my neutral blue jeans, my Troxel helmet, and a dressage whip, on a clearly-Western-looking Appaloosa!"

I love this! I was totally given crap (in a good natured way) one day by our Trainer for a setup almost identical to that! English bridle (including a very English style running martingale), Troxel helmet, big sporty looking horse. All I can say is this: "Now watch me slide!" :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

It sounds like you're really getting the canter. I don't usually carry a crop, but I used to when I took lessons years ago. I had a horse who's favorite gait was also 'statue'.Funny thing is after I used it on his shoulder lightly a few times and put up with his annoying buck of insult, I never needed to use it again, just carry it.

I have so many embarrassing incidents that have happened to me I couldn't possibly share them here or it would be a three or four page post.

Well okay, here's one for fun. Standing on the mounting block, horse puts his head down and bridle falls to the ground, reins hanging around his neck, looks at me like I'm an idiot. I was, I forgot to tighten the bridle. Lots of onlookers in the arena too. Smile and shrug. That's life!

Jan said...

Story, thank you for your comment. Glad to know I'm not alone in the crazy-tack area! How terrific that you can then say, Now watch me slide! You go, girl!!

Arlene, I so enjoyed your comment as well! The story about the bridle makes me laugh (though not at you; it could have been me!)! Thanks for sharing it!

Carol said...

Your canter work sounds wonderful! Good, good, good. I love reading about your progress and it's going so well.
Thanks so much for referencing my blog. Appreciated.
And I loved the gadget story - I won't try that :)