Wednesday, January 4, 2012
New Year's Prediction Ride
I read somewhere that the first ride of the year sets the tone for your year. This better not be true. My first ride of the year was a hot mess with the pony getting stickier and stickier. Then I went out to the barn yesterday and couldn't even get up the nerve to ride. I brushed the pony and went home. Today I was determined to ride and I did. For five minutes we slogged around and before I could even get a decent trot out of her, the princess decided she was done. She stopped moving. I used my legs. Kick. The whip. Kick, buck. Argh! Lucky for me, L was right there. Her partner (also an L, dammit....this whole anonymous trainer thing isn't really working out very well) was riding a GIANT bay horse and yelled across the arena "C'mere and hop on this horse and ride while I put your pony in side reins and teach her some forward to contact."
I blinked at her. "Ride that horse? He's huge." I'm not kidding about the huge. He was at least 16.3 and a massive warmblood. "Uh......"
She laughed. "He's huge but he goes forward. He's totally safe. We put beginners on him."
Okay. I may be a chicken, but I'm not a beginner and I'm not going to let a giant, beginner's horse intimidate me. So I handed her the cranky pony and got on the massive bay. I asked him to trot. Oh, hey core muscles, you might want to help out here. He had a lofty trot that made posting athletic but somehow easier. We flew around the arena. I got to ride in the corner next to the goat's pen where Tessa doesn't go. We did twenty meter circles with ease. Linda was having a discussion with the Princess that involved some head tossing and some crankiness, but every time I flew by them the pony seemed to be going forward.
"Canter him." Linda said as I flew by. "But from the walk. He's forward and it'll be a bigger canter but he's easy."
I took a deep breath. I fidgeted my way down the long side, building my courage. In the corner I sat deep, moved my outside leg back and pressed. The big bay leapt into a ground covering canter. We took the long side in four strides.
"Balance him." Linda yelled, while snapping the lunge whip at the Princess.
I sat deeper in the saddle, took some contact and thought about lifting his back up underneath me. It worked. It worked! We were balanced and cantering and forward and Oh!Oh! I'm not nearly as bad a rider as I think! I sat down and thought walk and he came right back underneath me, swinging his back and stepping softly underneath me.
"Okay, now come get back on your pony." She still had Tess attached to the lunge line. I climbed back aboard (no mounting block needed for the pony) and asked for forward. Immediately, Tess pinned her ears and swished her tail. I tapped her with the whip and she kicked out, threatening to buck.
"I'm going to make her go forward, so be ready for her to really go forward." Linda lifted the lunge whip and smartly tapped Tessa's side. I grabbed a handful of mane and we were off. Wow! A forward trot. A very speedy forward trot! I could work with this trot. We could get contact.
'Now ask for canter." Linda still had the lunge whip in one hand and the lunge line in the other. I sat down and cued for canter. Tess pinned her ears, swished her tail and bucked. Linda tapped her with the lunge whip and Tess took off at a frantic canter. In response I raised my hands and felt my hands, arms and shoulders turn to iron bars.
"Relax your hands." Linda admonished, "She can't go forward if you're pulling her back with all that tension. Just sit down, relax everything and keep the contact steady. Let her go forward INTO the contact."
Sure enough, two strides later we had a lovely, forward relaxed canter. It was time to unclip the lunge line.
At this point, I'd love to end my story with "And everything was wonderful and we all lived happily ever after." but that's not what happened. My pony is a smart pony and as soon as Linda was out of range, she decided that she didn't need to go forward. She stopped dead and kicked out. So, Linda came after her with a lunge whip, which meant me grabbing more mane and trying not to give her conflicting cues.
Linda pointed out that I need to start on the ground with being in charge. That her kicking out and bucking at my leg and my whip are things that start when she pins her ears on the ground and swishes her tail when I brush her. I just can't seem to find the spot where I'm a benevolent dictator. So, I'm just going to make sure to take this project one day at a time. And maybe I'll count the brief forward moments of our ride on the lunge line today as my New Year's Prediction Ride. I predict, one way or another, I will find the gas pedal on this pony and I will find my way around being her leader.
Posted by Mona Sterling at 7:10 AM