Two Week Equitation Boot Camp - Ride One

I set three goals for two weeks, and I'm going to keep repeating them so I'll drill them into my head:
  1. maintain steady, consistent connection instead of throwing it away when he gives or gets tense
  2. keep my legs softly against his sides at all times; use the sides of my calves, not my heels
  3. keep my legs long and heels down when cantering; don't let my legs creep up to hold the canter (see above)
I got lots of good feedback when I first posted these, with several people suggesting bareback or no stirrups. This is a great idea, but I wasn't able to start that today. The snow was coming off the roof, and even though Rogo barely flicks an ear over this, I'm always a little nervous (it's a wonder I haven't made him nervous). I did a little bit with no stirrups, but it wasn't the day for it. I'll start bareback on the lunge, because the one time I rode Rogo bareback he wouldn't steer and was trotting fast every which way and wouldn't stop until I rode him into a fence. I know - perfect Rogo acting naughty - how can that be :) Winter before last I rode Savanah bareback at walk, trot and canter, in the ring,  on the beach (even a little galloping here) and in the woods four or five times a week for four months. It was wonderful and it got so I hated using a saddle. I really learned to balance with my core. Then Doug started riding her again and I went back to riding Dan and began to back Rogo and the bareback got left behind. It's time to start again and I'm so happy to have the reminders of how good it is.

Another suggestion was two point. I don't jump and don't have much experience with this, but it's a good idea and I'm going to do some.
Doug and I rode together today, so it was great to have a set of eyes to help me. Also the mirror in the ring is handy. For the first time ever with Rogo I took a good contact and then held it, in the same way I would with Savanah, instead of giving the contact away all the time. I don't know why this was such a mental block for me. It was like night and day even on this first day of my blitz. I knew he was ready and could do it or I wouldn't have made it a two week goal - it's me, not him that's holding this up. Sure, his neck got stiff a few times and he wanted to poke his nose out a few times, but really it was fine. It was like a revelation to me!
I gave him lots of opportunities to stretch forward and down (he likes to do this) and he was great. He didn't pop his head up during transitions and the quality of the trot was much better. The canter wasn't great so we'll keep working on that. It comes and goes with him.
That was the first goal. The second one - keeping my legs lightly on - is more vague to me. I keep being told to do it, but as I try to focus on it I realize I don't have a good mental picture of what I want. That's half the battle! The second and third goals are very related, and since I seem to have gotten over the hurdle on the first one (still LOTS of practice needed by both of us, especially in canter) this will be #1 now. Legs long, heels down, inside of calves on when needed and don't let anything make me give it up. I can do this.
Doug and Savanah had a great ride. He's been practicing the beginning of collection in the trot and got me to watch today while they practiced. He sat deep, pushed with his seat and legs and suddenly I swear it looked like three strides of a piaffe / passage combo. I yelled "did you feel that" at the same time he yelled "did you see that". She lowered her hindquarters and took three very elevated strides with lots of suspension in them - wow, so pretty.
We didn't ride either of them very long because they'd been out playing in the snow and were kind of tired. Also Doug was tired because he spent an hour fencing, in snow over his knees, when he got there.
I can't wait to ride again...


Anonymous said…
I try to think of my legs as draped - just softly lying there - think "passive pressure" - no bracing, no pushing but just softly moving with and feeling the horse. Then your leg is ready whenever you need to do something - you barely have to move it.

Nice set of goals.
Carol said…
I really like this mental picture. Thanks - it helps to think of them as 'draped'.
I like your goals, they're all attainable. I think if you're able to bareback safely that's a really good way to ride. I used to do a two point all the time and ride without stirrups. At first it seems like torture but after a while it really helps. Having your legs lightly touching will come with practice. I also have a tendency to use my heels instead of calf so I have to consciously think about what I'm doing especially in the canter. Whoever could say riding is easy?
smazourek said…
How exciting, Go Doug and Savanah!
You are ice cream and your legs are ice cream melting down and around your horses sides. (Sally Swift)

When you give a leg aid it should be like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. (my trainer)

Looking forward to checking in with you on our mutual quest :)
Carol said…
Melting ice cream - yes! I like the tube of tooth paste too. I've got some good mental pictures now; all I have to do is apply it consistently and develop muscle memory. That's the hard part but I'm determined.
Achieve1dream said…
Good job! Sounds like a great ride. Sorry I can't really offer advice, but I'm cheering for you. :)
Jan said…
Carol, I really like your idea of a two week blitz to work on just a few things, very focused. I must try this approach also; it sounds like you did very well with contact and holding onto it. (It's so nice to see/feel a difference when really trying something.) And I know what you mean about hearing an instruction and not really knowing how to translate that to your body. I guess some of the things we are trying to do to improve our riding are very subtle changes, and naturally hard to put into words. But if we keep trying with several suggestions (ice cream, toothpaste), one of them may really click with us. Well, that, and practice! LOL!