With a show on Sunday and this horrible heat, I decided to get to the barn early and just hit the trail. We haven't left the barn in at least five weeks (EHV-1/vacation), so I was eager to do something besides ride in the arena.
Going back a bit ... dear friend Taz's mom, who looked after Speedy while I was on vacation, had nothing but wonderful things to say about Speedy when I got home. She was so impressed with how friendly and polite he was and how willing to do whatever was asked of him. She's known him since day 1, and frankly, he was a bit of a stinker as a three and four-year-old. Even during his five and six-year-old years he was known to pull a few naughty tricks. But now, as a blooming seven-year-old, he appears to have turned into a right nice fellow.
So as I headed out onto the trail, I kept her words in my mind and realized that I am no longer riding that undependable four-year-old. I quit worrying that he was going to fall down or flip out. A few cars roared by which in the past would have sent him straight up into the air. He flicked an eye and stiffened his neck a bit, but onward and forward he went. The only thing he had real reason to freak out about, which he didn't, was a LARGE, YELLOW school bus that pulled up behind us pretty quietly and released its air brakes. That would scare ANY seasoned pony. Speedy did stop, tense his whole body, and step quickly away, but he did it with control. I was so proud of him!
That's all real nice, but it's not even what I wanted to write about. What I want to scream and shout and dance about is that on the way home, while Speedy was moving very nicely forward, we had some of the absolutely best strides of back to front connection that we have yet managed. I felt his back come up under me, my legs turned into melted ice cream as I gently hugged his barrel, I felt the most wonderful connection from the bit to my hands, and I RODE MY HORSE WITH MY SEAT! Can I get an AMEN sister?!
Am I ready? Nope. And by ready I don't mean is my tack clean and the horse braided. I gassed up the truck Friday and I'll give my tack a quick clean up in the afternoon. My clothes are always cleaned and ready in their plastic tub along with my show pad, boots, and velvet helmet. That's not what I mean by ready, either.
By ready, what I mean is am I prepared to show a well-schooled horse to a judge with the knowledge that he can perform the movements on cue and correctly. It is so frustrating to be at Introductory Level and STILL not feel prepared. I know that my seat has improved tremendously and my hands are getting steadier. And I know we are better than last summer, but we still can't ride the Introductory tests consistently. If Speedy feels good, he does great. If he's feeling "pissy," he fusses with the bit and resists.
My goals for Sunday are this:
- First and foremost, I have to remember to have fun even if we do a terrible job. Smile, laugh, no big deal!
- I will bend my elbows and keep my thumbs up. Half the time I look like a zombie with my arms stuck straight out!
- I will maintain a steady contact, especially with the outside rein. Frequently it is seen flapping in the breeze.
- I will open my pelvis by sitting up, not leaning forward. Why is that so difficult?
- I will relax my leg so that I am not gripping/pinching with my knees and thighs. A la clothespin style ...
- I will remember the "feeling" of riding with my seat. This is a feeling I get when I know I'm doing it correctly.
If I do these things, I can keep Speedy moving forward nicely, he will be less resistant, and our figures will be more accurate.
And, if we can get the canter departure without bucking, we'll be in good shape!