I got to ride a different horse during my lesson tonight because Louie had a chiropractic adjustment yesterday and needs a few days off. I knew leading up to my lesson that I would have to ride a different horse, but I wasn't sure which horse I would be asked to ride. I figured for sure I'd ride one of the beginner lesson horses, but much to my surprise, Julie put me on one of her 3rd level training horses. Wow, was that amazing and fun!
Prince is a Friesan-Morgan cross, about Louie's height, but much more stout, with a thick, short neck and a back like a sofa (comfy). I rode in Julie's dressage saddle too, which I really liked. Prince has been really well trained by Julie, and not messed up by lots of different riders, so it was fun to ride a well trained horse who knows what he's doing. It was really fun to figure him out. It was amazing to feel that a subtle change in my body position or riding style resulted in such a huge difference in how he went. For instance, we worked on sitting trot, and when I rode it incorrectly with my "wiggly back" he felt more hollow, not as forward, and lacking impulsion. When I straightened up, engaged my seat bones and my core, and used my aids a little more effectively, he went into a wonderful forward, round trot with a ton of loft and impulsion. So in essence, the horse taught me how to ride correctly. It was also fun because he took the bit contact nicely and never went behind the bit.
My posting also improved. Somehow, and I'm not sure the series of steps that I took to get there, but somehow Julie liked my posting much better on Prince than how I've been posting on Louie. I think the main difference is that I felt relaxed, free, and I posted with less strain and effort than what I've been doing when I ride Louie (no perpetual half halt as Julie would say). I just kindof let my body almost post the way it would do if I were doing it in my sleep or on a trail ride. The only "restriction" in my posting was making sure that I was landing very softly and not falling on my "can."
We worked on some lateral work, which Prince does with ease. It was so easy to get him to step into a shoulder in, haunches in, half pass, or renvers, I didn't have to contort my body into a pretzel to do it. This, I think, is because Julie insists that it is done right and doesn't beg the horse to do it properly, she insists upon it. The result: it becomes easier for the rider.
We also worked on some cantering. Prince has got an amazingly comfortable little canter (very different than Louie's big canter), and is very easy and transitions simply off of the inside seat bone. Of course I didn't get this quite as easily (because Louie hasn't a clue how to do this), so once I did one of my bad habits and leaned forward to get the canter. Julie squealed and about died laughing saying, "you have so much ability, then you throw something like that in there!" It was pretty funny, I don't know why I do that, but I know I do. I do that all the time when I ride Louie, but I'm going to have to try to pay attention to not leaning forward when I transition to the canter.
Overall it was a great lesson. I'm sad that I won't be able to ride Prince anymore, and I think Julie is too (because she thought it was really good to see what I could do and learn on a more knowledgeable horse), but he is moving to a new home across the country next week. Bummer, but it was fun, taught me a lot, and I think hopefully opened Julie's eyes to the fact that I'm not a complete slouch of a rider, it just looks that way because Louie and I don't know any better.
On another note, Louie seems to have had a really nice result from his adjustment. His back came up about 2 inches from where it was earlier this week. The vet said he had a lot of vertebrae out in the thoracolumbar area (go figure, our constant problem area) and one rib out. I'm always a bit of a skeptic, but that is the most amazing result I think I've seen in such a short time! He seems less sore in his back too when I groomed and palpated him. I'm very happy about that! I lunged him just a bit and he is still a little off on his left hind as he has been off and on (mildly) for the past 3 years (I think since the field trial when he faught with the stake out). Julie thinks it is his stifle (which you may remember he had injected 3 years ago), and it's really only noticeable when trotting on a circle to the left, so we're going to work on a cavaletti program to try to strengthen him up!