Don't know about you all, but when I go for too long between rides, I tend to get anxious. I worry over losing ground in our training, losing fitness - both Val and I - and losing my confidence too. It's so ridiculous really. We're not planning a bid for the Olympics after all. At this point, if we ever even get to halt at X, I'll be amazed. We haven't made it inland for lessons in ages. I had maybe four lessons in all of 2011. Now my trainer has moved away. And I don't have a saddle.
Nonetheless, I am determined to continue with the pursuit of dressage, no matter what the obstacles. I'm stubborn like that. (my fellow riders around here would say foolish I think) Days like yesterday are exactly the reason why.
After leaving Val with his head in the breakfast bucket, I came back to the Shimmy Shack for coffee and a quick look at the computer. I checked one of my new favorite blogs, SchoolYourHorse. The several posts I read precisely addressed our issues of late; forward, energy, lightness of aids and how my position affects each. I was filled with inspiration.
SYH's first good advice recommended energizing a sluggish horse even from the grooming and tacking phase. I realized that I had been purposefully lowering my energy level while preparing to ride - usually to appear calm. This recalled my former trainer's energy equation - your energy plus your horses energy should add up to ten. If your horse is a two, you must be an eight. Your horse is nine, you must be a one. Too right!
I walked Val briskly out to the mounting block, head up, shoulders back. I hopped on - still polishing up that graceful bareback mount - and low and behold there was an energetic horse under me. Next task was light aids. If my calves weren't answered immediately, next came my heels, followed by the whip if necessary. I realized that I have been inconsistent, lacking intention, and frankly a bit lazy with my aiding.
I only had to resort to the heels and whip once each. Soon we were marching around the arena. Then the very best thing happened. I asked for our walk to get a little bigger, and Val reached into the bit and offered me the trot, off of the very lightest aid. I felt as if I could have gotten the canter just as easily. Such a lovely feeling. It's amazing what our horses will do when we don't block them. Yay - forward!!!
We kept things interesting doing some cone work, with Val moving off my leg beautifully. I focused on sitting in the deepest part of my horse, head and shoulders up and back, looking through his ears towards my destination. All these things are such basics, but apparently I need near constant reminding.
After our ride came a walk around the property. Val followed at my shoulder, head down, super calm, even in the v-e-r-y s-c-a-r-y areas. There wasn't much grass to be found, so next we headed out the front gate, past the construction site next door, the formerly death dealing row of trash bins, and down the road towards the highway. The last time we ventured out was a year ago. I usually only go during school hours to avoid traffic and kids on four wheelers. A motorbike zoomed by and Val didn't even blink. We had a nice pick of grass, and returned home to take a few conformation pictures for saddle fitting. Lastly there was another picnic in the paddock. Val tried to steal my sandwich, my hat, my book. When all that failed - he licked my arm for half an hour. I love my great goofball of a horse.
On the saddle front - I've contacted Trumble Mountain about assessing Val. I'm planning to list my old saddle - first on ebay - then consigned if that doesn't work. I'm looking at a Sommer Egon von Neindorff close contact saddle at the moment. I really like this saddle - it's a demo model, so almost new, and reasonably priced. My trainer used to ride in one and loved it. No thigh blocks, mono flap. She said they fit the horse a bit wider, which will be better for us. Learning not to get my hopes up... well - not too much anyway.