Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back in the saddle again

Another lovely day today, and another great lesson! Today I rode a bay horse named Champ.

Champ is a funny horse- he seems cranky and puts his ears back a lot, especially when being groomed. But apart from that, he has a nice personality and is a good horse to ride.

A few years ago I rode him every week all winter, but since then I have improved as a rider, and I think he can tell.

Last week we had a good but exhausting lesson - Champ hasn't been ridden too much lately and has a lot of energy, so he needs to be worked. We cantered around quite a lot, and to my chagrin I was bouncing WAY out of the saddle - I could even see my shadow and it looked silly. I kept getting encouragement from my teacher, though, and when we slowed down she said that Champ just has a funny springy canter that is hard to sit to, and that I did just fine for what we were working with.

So this week, I rode Champ again, and boy were we both improved. He still had a lot of energy, but this time, I actually kept him collected during the canter, and hardly bounced up at all. My instructor is excellent and helped me get the right amount of pressure and release on the reins- I did have them quite taught to begin with, and she encouraged me to relax them as he relaxed to give him his head a bit. A few times I lost my stirrups, which is a bad habit I thought I had grown out of, but when my teacher yelled at me to tighten up and push my leg down, I was fine- in fact she said I should do that even when I have both my stirrups to help balance and control Champ's energy.

Another thing I am working on is turns - I was reading in Centered Riding about swiveling the top and bottom halves of your body in opposite directions, and I realized that while I definitely have the "turn your shoulders and head in the direction you want to go in" down pat, I really need to work on leveraging my outer leg back and dropping the inside leg down when turning. This is much harder since I am used to turning all in one direction and my outside leg goes forward, but I practiced today and got the feel for it a little, it will just take time. Also, riding in a western saddle makes it a bit more challening to do some of the more subtle things.

Until next week!

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