Last night was supposed to kick off a few months of trying just jumping lessons instead of dressage lessons. Ideally, I would do both, but with limited funds and limited time I have to choose. So, I thought I would focus on forward and fun for a while and see how it goes.
Tessa's wound is doing good. They are cleaning it every day. It's always puffy and warm when I show up, but she works out of it in about ten minutes and shows no sign of lameness. She was a little short strided while on the lunge, but once I pushed her forward she was fine.
So, I got on and we started to work on me sitting lightly. Then we worked on making sure that Tessa understood that if I asked her to trot, I asked her to trot. No yelling with my legs or whip. No nagging. I carried a jump crop and was told to basically say 'hello?hello?hello?' until she answered. So, I asked her to trot. Nothing. This time, rather than gripping with my leg and asking her again, I tapped her on the shoulder with the crop (not hit, tapped). She sassed me, so I kept tapping. I tapped while she pinned her ears. While she threw her head. While she pushed out of the outside rein and tried to rub me on the wall. I tapped while she kicked out, kicked up. And then when she blew a frustrated sigh out of her nose and moved into a lovely forward trot, I told her she was a good girl and quit tapping.
My pony has taught me that if I tap her with a whip, she will try to intimidate me. She wants me to pick a fight with her because she will win in a fight. So, my goal is to make sure not to pick a fight with her. I need to irritate her into going forward. And not get intimidated when she pitches a fit before she does it.
So, then we were going to get to the jumping part and L asked me to canter. About halfway around the arena, she told me to put more weight on my toes. I did and the pony became lighter. Then L told me to stop and came over.
She told me to sit normally and I swear I saw a lightbulb go on over her head.
"Aha! I have figured out why your horse won't go forward and why you are getting saddle sores!! Most people, when they are nervous, ride in the fetal position. You, however, are riding in a defensive position with your seat shoved down into the saddle and your heels shoved down. Your thighs aren't even touching the saddle!!"
She had me stand up in the stirrups and shift so that I was more forward. She told me to stand on my toes. I had to grab Tessa's mane to get my balance. It felt very strange.
We picked up the trot. I made sure to hold her mane when I wobbled. My thighs burned. Then we picked up the canter. Oh!!! This is what it feels like to be light! The pony was forward and listening and didn't require multiple tries to pick up the canter.
When we turned to go to the right, things kind of fell apart, but we brought it back together with a plan. Keep the outside rein and ask for canter in three stages. One - half halt. Two - Outside Leg Back. Three - Ask for canter with the inside leg. If at any time during those stages, she threw her neck and shoulder out and changed the bend, I was to go back and start over. If she picked up the wrong lead, I was to counter canter her in a ten meter circle.
We got the right lead canter multiple times. We also got the left lead more than I would have liked, but I'm letting myself off the hook. My thighs were burning trying to hold the new position and my brain was overflowed with information.
In the end, we ran out of time to actually jump anything, but I think we solved a much bigger issue about my riding. I've been riding defensively. The kind of seat that works well on a horse that is bolting, bucking, being super naughty. This would be fine if I was a rodeo cowboy and Tessa were a bucking bronco, but we're not.... at least most of the times. I won't get to ride again until Friday, but I'm excited to work on my new position.
I also woke up this morning with every muscle SCREAMING at me so it must have been a good workout.