Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Long-Needed Riding Lesson For Me

This afternoon we had a riding lesson with a new instructor, Julie, who teaches at our barn.  The lesson was rather spur of the moment and we hadn't really worked on much lately with Louie being sore (which, now he seems to have recovered from fully).  I didn't really have anything in particular I was working on or wanted to emphasize, but moreso I wanted to get a fresh set of eyes to watch us and tell us how we were doing and what we can work on to improve.  I hadn't had a formal riding lesson in hunt seat in probably 10 years, which is way too long for any one person to go along not having his or her equitation picked on. 

In the past 5 years, I've had only "project horses," in which the focus of our work and lessons has always been on improving and training the horse.  Naturally, when training a horse, whether teaching a new skill, breaking, or riding through a difficult situation, a person rides in a functional form of equitation, and you can't expect them to ride in perfect form all the time when training.  Well, 5 years of riding like that and not being reminded to do such things as hold your wrists flexed, fingers closed and keep your toes in will do strange things to a person's form.  So we worked some on that.  For me, none of the things I heard today were things I'd never heard before- toes forward, shoulders back, flex the wrists, look up, etc.  I just need the reminder- over and over and over again at nauseum to get it to sink in.  And I can pretty much guarantee I'll need it again next time as it slips from my brain. . .

We also worked quite a bit on canter transitions, which honestly Louie and I haven't worked on since our show a month ago.  We worked mostly on trot-canter transitions (which we all together stopped doing a few months ago when we had so much trouble with Louie's right lead), and a lot of circles and figure 8's, which was great in getting Louie to take his leads as I asked for them rather than relying on the rail to tell him which lead to take.  He wasn't perfect in his leads, he probably got the correct lead 70% of the time, but he did pretty decent overall and didn't really show a huge preference for one lead vs the other, which made me happy.  We also worked on the sitting trot (which is a fairly new thing for us, though Louie does know how to jog thanks to all of our work on the jog in long lines and in the cart), and I got quite the ab/back workout in sitting the jog!  I think I must have sat the jog alright considering Julie didn't pick on my form that much with that at all.

We also learned one other new skill that I am really excited to keep working on- feeling our diagonals and picking up the correct diagonal without looking.  I can do this now from the walk and the sitting trot, it's a matter of feeling which hind leg is moving underneath you and posting off of that movement.  By the end of the lesson I was getting it probably 90-95% of the time.  Also, picking up the correct diagonal in a downward transition from the canter without looking- this one is a little more challenging, I think because I am never really sure *when* Louie is going to break from the canter to the trot.  But the goal is post on the very first trot stride after the transition.  It worked most of the time, but it is a little tricky sometimes to get this one right.  I think with more practice and getting Louie and I in sync, we'll get the hang of it. 

Overall, it was a pretty good lesson- a nice refresher on some equitation things I need to work on and really a good "change it up" workout for Louie, proving to me that he really CAN canter in a smallish circle and actually has decent balance.  Louie and I got our butts worked and will probably both be sore tomorrow- in a good way.  Julie and I disagreed on a few points such as what a half halt is and where my toes should be facing, but overall I definately gained some new knowledge from her and think I can learn more as she teaches so many different disciplines- next plan will be to hopefully take a jumping lesson- something rather foreign to me (at least jumping in proper form lol).  We shall see- the way I figure, only good things can come from new ideas and things to work on from another set of eyes. 

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