Riding Diary – 10/22/21

My second ride back was a pleasure!

This time, I rode another senior, been-there-done-that eq horse named, Gunner. He’s a lovely, dark chestnut with an adorable face and a quirky personality. If I thought Riley was behind my leg, Gunner was even more so. Luckily, we spent the majority of the lesson focusing on getting some quality gaits out of him.

Improvements & Deficits

I was more intentional this time about pestering less with my legs. Instead, I opened my seat and kept a firmer grip on my reins so I wasn’t letting energy leak out the front end. My stamina wasn’t great, but I did notice some improvement. Having set the goal to push myself physically, I acknowledged my labored breathing, but chose to stick it out. I did need some walking breaks, but I hope to minimize those as much as possible.

Also, I remembered that private lessons are normally more exhausting when you have a trainer’s eyes on you. Not to say I slacked off in group lessons, but oftentimes the group will wait outside or in the middle of the arena during coursework. The thought cheered me up a bit.

One particular hangup that I forgot about was losing my stirrup. When I rode dressage, it was extremely rare I needed to adjust a stirrup. Since the leg drapes down and weighty along the horse, it’s easier to balance and not pinch your leg up. With H/J length, it all came back so clearly and I knew exactly why it was happening. Wanting to sit the canter, my knees pinched and I tipped my body laterally to (incorrectly) encourage Gunner to bend around a 20m circle. Thus, I became unbalanced and unweighted in the stirrups. It’s a perfect formula for mediocrity.

I’ve good-naturedly tried to reassure my trainer several times that I really do know a lot when it comes to horsemanship and riding theory. I like to think I understand quite a bit of the mechanics conceptually, but physically executing them and collecting the muscle memories together is another story. A perfect example was remembering how to twist a chain counter-clockwise to lay it flat beneath the chin, which my trainer commended me on. I was pleased with myself and counted it as a small victory. When it comes to horses, I’ve learned it’s essential to relish when things go right.

There was a moment when Gunner spooked at someone in the corner, which I sat since he wasn’t being naughty. However, in the moment, I noticed I pitched forward and balanced on my toes. While this isn’t something I can actively practice, I’d like to be more conscious of sitting back in these kinds of moments.

For my next lesson, my trainer has already decided we’ll do some jumping and I’ll get back on Riley. I’m excited to try it again, especially on a confidence building horse. I credit my dressage training as my foundation of confidence. Many of the horses I rode while jumping didn’t instill a great deal of confidence in me, so I see this as an opportunity to focus on myself and trust my partner.

This Time & Next Time

This time, I was happy to try another horse that I could still attempt to accomplish my previous lesson’s goals. I was proud of my ability to get a nice canter on Gunner’s stiff, right lead.

Next time, I’d like to focus specifically on stretching my leg down and “refreshing my heel” as one of my past trainers called it. Specifically over jumping, I’d like to focus on sending my hips back, instead of forward while in two-point.

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