It’s been a week of great rides, but before we start here’s an update on the Donatello: after a few conditioning sessions and a couple of weeks of regular wear, I’d call them pretty well broken in at this point. They’ve dropped around my ankles and, with the added support of the cheap inserts I have in the heel of them, have become a pretty comfortable boot. They get less comfortable when I add spurs to them and they’ve also been slipping on the fillis of my irons, so I’ve widened up my pair of Prince of Wales and ordered a pair of Super Comfort Stirrup Pads to help keep my feet in the irons (results TBD).
Monday‘s free ride was very encouraging. Belle has gotten very consistent with her framing at the walk and the trot, and I only have to remind her semi-frequently that she’s a horse and not a llama while she’s cantering. We did a lot of transition work (walk to trot, walk to canter, canter to halt, halt to canter, trot to canter, canter to trot, etc., etc.) and made a lot of improvements on our rein back (I swear her head even came down and tucked for a few steps). We ended with some serpentines and a little bit of lateral movement, too.
Tuesday I managed to convince myself that we should spend more time working at the canter on our bad side (both of us are stiff when we’re on the right lead). We worked more on frame and I picked a couple of fights with The Pony about framing up at the halt, which she didn’t particularly enjoy. We focused on more of our laterals (sidepass, turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, leg yield). I also did a good handful of serpentines (I love serpentines!) and joined one of the lessons that was running in a few minutes of posting trot without irons.
Wednesday was our flat lesson. I decided I wanted to work on our circles, so we started at the walk with The Trainer introducing the key concepts of riding a horse from the back forward. My goal was to engage Belle’s hindquarters, ask her to lift her belly and bend her barrel around my inside leg, get her to soften through the shoulder, and then encourage flexion through the neck and the throatlatch. Belle loves to brace against me, but The Trainer encouraged me to be less patient and demand more effort from the lazy pony. We made progress, but working on something as simple (yet challenging) as a circle always reminds me that there’s a lot more to learn!
THURSDAY WAS JUMP DAY. The Trainer set up some gymnastics at 18″ to 2’0″ for The Show Buddy and I. My mother came out to watch and film again (and to witness my redemption after last week’s Jump Day fail) and even she could see how much I’ve improved since I started over crossrails. We added in my first bounce and The Trainer coached me to keep my eyes up and have a more exaggerated release. We had one small refusal (The Pony wasn’t ready for the next jump and neither was I), but then circled back and aced the grid. At one point I even did most of the grid without one of my irons (are those grippy pads here yet?). The best part was that we were working off my bad side and The Trainer still said that my lower leg was awesome!
What to Expect Next Week:
The search for a horse of my own is starting up! In the mean time, I’ll be working on building up some thigh strength (cantering on the right lead, posting trot without irons, work without irons in general) and improving The Pony’s circles. I also want to improve my riding endurance, which means I should be doing a lot more at the canter in my half seat and my two point position. At some point, I really need to develop some abdominal muscles…