A brief, pictureless, update! (addendum, it turned out less brief than I planned.)
We had a long trek on Sunday – five of us. MC & Quieto, Alexandrine on a livery horse, Nini on the little grey that belongs to the millionaires who live in the middle of the woods, the LSH on Flurry and me on Aero. Last time we went out in this type of configuration, Aero had a bit of a melt-down, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I had to spend a lot of time ducking under low branches. Every time I ducked, he tried to tank off! I ended up bailing out that day, it WAS NOT FUN at all!
This time was much better, although he did get quite excited and jogged a lot. We had two and a half hours riding through the woods, quite a few bank-type things and general scrambles up and down and I coped fine. I did ask the LSH to park Flurry in front of him when Aero started to get wound up, and it helped, Flurry’s big yellow bum seemed to have a somewhat calming effect!
On Monday, I practised Equitation ethologique with both horses. Aero is getting better at staying close to me (that’s one of the things Alexandrine corrected in our lesson) and I get the impression he is quite enjoying it now that he understands me better. He was anticipating less, too – we did quite a bit of ‘back up and just wait there while I count to ten.’ Flurry was surprisingly responsive. I tried the new ‘going sideways’ trick I learned last week and he gave it his best effort first time – he seemed to understand what I was asking immediately.
Tuesday, I had a lesson on Aero at 9am. YAWN. But it was a FAB lesson! We worked on our leg-yielding and got the positioning of Aero’s body much, much better. I found myself giggling every time we turned down the centre line on the right rein. The conversation went something like this :
Me : 10M semi-circle to turn down the centre line please.
Aero : OK. And half-pass right?
Me : No thanks, we’ll go straight for a bit.
Aero : How about right travers?
Me : No, really, just straight is fine.
Aero : Left travers?
Me (giggling helplessly at this stage) : Thanks very much, but just straight please.
Aero : well, ok, if you’re sure… tum-ti-tum…
Me : Let’s go sideways now.
Aero : Yay! Sideways!
By the time we had done loads of leg-yielding, Aero was nice and soft and working into the contact. Leg-yielding has been his usual warm-up procedure for years, he tends to get tight through the back and ducks behind the contact, and the lateral work helps him loosen up. This day, I could really feel it working. I was concentrating like mad on keeping my hands up, not pulling them back into my pockets, and I found that, somehow, I was balancing better with his uber-bouncy trot. And I realised something – I no longer feel like a beginner on him!
We worked on canter for the last part of the lesson, trying to get me to sit on my bum properly, not tipped forward on my um.. fork. I politely refused to go without stirrups, so I had to keep my feet very light in the stirrups instead – toes up, but feeling as if I’m just about to slip my feet out of the stirrups. It helped… we rode canter loops down the long sides (OMG, so much space in a 60M arena!). Our loops were better on the left rein than on the right, and there is work to be done on both reins, but we finished up with a happy horse and a happy rider!
To finish off the lesson, we tried walk pirouettes. It was better on the left than on the right, Aero knew what I was asking but he is stiffer going to the right. More stuff to practise.
I rode Flurry afterwards, and found that his leg-yielding has miraculously improved. I’m getting a better feel for it thanks to Aero and I think the sideways stuff I had done with Flurry in-hand the day before helped, too. I practised canter with no stirrups on him – much easier on a horse that’s not going to bounce me off when I return to trot!
So all in all, we’re working hard and seeing progress! The horse dentist-vet is coming on Friday and he’ll sign off on the paperwork I need to register the horses for competition. There’ll be no excuses then!