Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Horseback riding is a lot of work!

...At least, if you do it right.

I remember a while back, reading a novel (*cough* romance *cough*) in which the heroine was being given riding lessons, and her teacher told her it was pretty easy once you were on the horse's back.  Uh huh.  Obviously that author had absolutely NO riding experience, except for maybe a guided trail ride or two on a quiet horse at a walk.

Anyway, Panama was less fussy today, but we still had kind of a rough lesson.  We both have a lot still to learn, and on days like today that fact becomes painfully obvious.  My trainer was having me trot and canter him around the arena, circling in each corner of the arena.  We started at the trot, and he had a hard time figuring out what I wanted, so when I first asked him to start circling, he'd dive into the turn instead of taking it one step at a time.  As we worked that out and improved our circle, he started slowing through the circle — I think because he was listening to me and waiting for me to tell him what I wanted next, but because I'm not accustomed to having to constantly put leg on, the result that he was slowing a lot and my trainer was having to remind me to keep his pace consistent.

When we added in the canter, we had all sorts of issues with the upward transition — he's generally not terribly responsive about cantering right away when I ask (something I need to work on, I know), but today it was worse than usual, probably because he was concentrating so much on listening for my turning/circling cues that he was having a hard time switching gears.

Once we (kind of) ironed out the transition issues, we worked on cantering with a circle in each corner.  We got it pretty good to the left, but to the right, of course, he has a much bigger problem with dropping his shoulder into the turns.  (On a bigger circle, I've been able to get him not to lean in quite so much by giving him some inside leg support, but I usually feel like he's relying way too heavily on that leg, instead of trying to hold himself up.)  Also, toward the end he started wanting to throw up his head and rush down the long side of the arena (because he was thinking about the upcoming circle in the corner, I'm sure), and breaking to the trot in the circle itself.

And of course, whenever I have a lot else to think about, my position falls apart — my heels come up, my shoulders go forward, and I get bouncy at the canter.

My trainer says that we'll eventually be able to fix the problems that frustrate me the most — our difficulties balancing through turns and circles (what's causing him to drop his shoulder and lean in, she says), and our struggle to maintain a consistent pace that's neither too fast or too slow — but in the meantime, I find it discouraging sometimes when a single ride highlights how much we still have to work on!



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