Riding Diary – 11/18/21

I cannot remember coming out of a lesson as pleased and happy as I did last night.

Last week, my main goal was creating a more positive attitude, which I can check off 100%. I felt great going in, especially since the windy weather I was preparing for died down. The evening was perfect. The briskness in the air pepped Riley up with a forward, manageable energy. Most of the barn was away at a show with Barn Owner/Head Trainer, so it was quiet and serene.

There’s normally a group lesson that happens during my private, but since St. Trainer was manning the ship, she asked if I was comfortable riding with the group for the full hour. Happily, I said I was game to ride with the two younger girls and their ponies.

Improvements & Deficits

I spent a few minutes warming up Riley, patiently giving him some time to rev up his older joints. Right off the bat, I kept the pace active and encouraged elasticity in his walk by lightening my seat and reinforcing my leg with a tap of the crop. Again, the weather was a perfect catalyst for energy, but not crazy freshness. He felt great!

St. Trainer quickly got us underway with some laps to warm up. First, posting the trot and keeping Riley off the rail and bending. Next, she asked us to do a lap of sitting trot. I chuckled a little, nervous. Sitting trot has never come easily to me, but I figured, when in Rome.

To my surprise, we did better than I’d ever done before! Riley, the old eq pro that he is, took it all in stride. I’m sure he’d roll his eyes at me if he could have. We were able to do an entire lap and then some, cruising in his smooth, ambling trot that allowed me to focus on sitting down into my heels. One of my old friends, a decorated dressage pro and fantastic horsewoman, always said the trot was the most like dancing. I kept that in mind as I tried to move fluidly with him and sit tall.

Then, we dropped our stirrups for a lap. I instinctively said, “Oh, boy.” St. Trainer laughed good-naturedly.

Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Did we do? Heck yeah!

My biggest concern was trying to be light on Riley’s back and not dump my weight on him. Endurance-wise, I was actually doing pretty well at this point. St. Trainer is certain the hot weather was what was getting me huffing and puffing in our first lessons.

However, when we picked up the canter, my right ankle buckled.

A performative rendition of my bum ankle

We were only about 15 minutes into the ride. Last time, it happened in the last few minutes of my ride. My first thought was “uh-oh”, but the following one was “Let’s muscle through.”

Cue PT Husband’s turn to roll his eyes at me.

We continued to trot, cycling over three trot poles laid out at X. I worked on straightness and a larger release at two-point. Ankle buckled every time. At one point, the left started to join in, but never got quite as bad as the right one. We reassessed my stirrups, which took the edge off by lengthening them a hole. St. Trainer said I was pointing my toe inward too much (a product of my dressage days) since they were collapsing to the outside. Part of the fix will be correcting my posture, but I’ve already enlisted PTH to give me some exercises to strengthen my legs. Rarely is a body issue isolated to just that part of the body, he says. I will be sure to share this regimen in another post.

After this, St. Trainer set up a mini course for us. I forgot how nice it was to be in a group lesson and have a physical break while being able to study someone else’s ride. The mini course rode at a trot for the first half, cantering away on the second crossrail to circle back to the third.

The first time I rode it, we just did the first two crossrails and finished with a courtesy circle at the end. After that, we all added the third crossrail. My favorite thing about the ride was Riley’s transitions. In the past, he’s been a bit sticky and stiff in the upward transitions to the canter. Last night, he gave me the loveliest, most sensitive transitions from sitting trot and walk. I was over the moon with our communication. We got to a point where I could prepare him with my breathing, hold him together and give a crisp ask with a lovely result.

The first time I took him the third crossrail, I didn’t prepare him well enough. He stopped at the crossrail, not realizing I was steering him toward it so it snuck up on him. I pressed him forward a bit and gave him a pat, apologizing for my poor piloting. We picked up a canter again to circle back to that jump. Knowing what I was asking of him, he got excited and a barged a bit, but we got over and I was happy to have corrected my piloting error.

This Time & Next Time

This time, I had loads of fun on a horse that felt so nice. I felt appreciative again for riding an old pro with a nice brain and smooth gaits. I’m proud I rose to several challenges and came out with high points.

Next time, I will work daily on the regimen PTH has kindly supplied for my ankle. I hope to focus on correcting my leg alignment, as well as being more mindful of my equitation over jumps.

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