Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Riding and Mastering the Little Things

I hope everyone’s summer has been full of good rides, be it in the arena, field, or trails. I’ve been riding about four days a week and working on my changes, among other things. Gailey, despite the permanent big leg issue and stretching suspensories, is going better than ever.

Gailey in her summer fly armour. Notice the big left hind leg.
I’ve finally mastered a three-loop serpentine without a change of lead and in balance. This may not seem like a difficult thing to do, yet with this particular horse, it was. The arena I ride in is about the size of a small dressage arena. My big mare has a hard time doing the counter canter loop. She’d rather change leads. Add to that my uncoordinated efforts to keep her from changing. Somtime during the past few months a light clicked on. I quit twisting my body and trying to pull Gailey around with the reins alone. Instead, I sat up straighter and quieter, concentrated on not changing the weight in my seatbones, and keeping her round and together. Once all those things came together, the serpentine was incredibly easy.
In addition, I’m able to plug my seat into the saddle in canter and use it to bring her back to a school canter then urge her into a forward canter. Forward. Back. Forward. Back. Forward, Back. Over and over we go in endless circles, practicing my half-halts and her obedience. My legs are staying on her sides. My butt is staying in the saddle. I’m sitting up straighter.
On to shoulder-in and haunches-in, I’m actually able to do a shoulder-in and haunches-in in both directions without tightening my butt, allowing her to move forward freely. Same with half-pass. I’m sitting up and enjoying the ride. Everytime I try too hard, I stiffen and then she stiffens. I’m working on staying relaxed and deep in that saddle.
Canter has always been my nemesis with this horse. Now I’d rather canter than trot. I’m also able to turn her in a small circles around my inside leg, outside rein, the precursor to a canter pirouette.
It’s possible you’re surprised I haven’t mastered all of this sooner. I can certainly understand, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m not the most physically coordinated person in the world, so none of this comes easy for me. At the beginning of the summer, I decided to take it one day at a time with her, not knowing how long she’d stay sound and healthy.
Gailey seems happy, cooperative, and content. She shows no signs of giving up. She’s trying hard. I’m having a great time, too. I hope your summer has been as productive and enjoyable.


Alison said...

Jamie, you must have the most agreeable mare. I've had several and all were, well, mare-ish!

Keep enjoying your sweetheart of a horse. And I love her stylish outfit.

Francesca Prescott said...

Jami: the three loop serpentine is HARD! I did a couple this afternoon on Kwint and we didn't enjoy them one bit. I think he's a little stiff in his left shoulder at the moment, or maybe there's something with his right hindleg, but his left lead canter feels really stiff and...well, bleh. He's not even enjoying his tempi changes as much as he usually does, so I know something isn't quite right. I don't think it's serious; if I push his quarters to the inside while cantering on a circle, really bending him around my inside leg, he eventually loosens up.

And yes, the half-halts...I'm forever practising those - they're the key to everything, aren't they! I'm trying to lift him up a little more at the moment, using the half-halts. Forward. Back. Forward. Back.

I enjoyed reading your post, it's fun to hear other people's dressage routines.

Linda Benson said...

Jami - Your post made me smile. I'm so glad you and Gailey are both enjoying your riding routine. You sound like you are made for each other. Happy Summer!

Jan said...

Jamie, Wow! I'd say you have done a lot this summer; hardly "little things!" Your accomplishments with your horse are very impressive. I'm still working hard on keeping my seat in the saddle at the canter. But your three loop serpentine sounds terrific! Congratulations- You deserve to give yourself and Gailey a big end-of-summer reward!

Shanster said...

Hooray for you! I also struggle with being tense and when I'm tense, my mare is tense. Our biggest issue is that she holds in her back. It bites us in the butt all the time and it's the comment I hear most in clinics and I anticipate to read in shows. Hard to work thru and get that back to unlock. She is short backed with also works against the issue.

I think each horse and rider pair struggles with different things. One thing may come easy for one pair that is so hard for another and vicey versy... :)