Thursday, May 31, 2012

A "Simple" Line

Wednesday morning I popped out to the barn for a quick lesson with S, since she hadn't overseen a ride in about a week.

Once again she demanded that I drop my stirrups (damn you!) and work on staying tall and keeping my leg under me (why my inside leg wants to go halfway to Prairie's flank, I don't know).  P2 was not thrilled with me wobbling about on her back, and in fact I think my terrible equitation inspired a bit of a spook, though I'm happy to say that it was well managed and I told myself she was just reacting to the stirrups crossed over my saddle and not to my wobbly body.

I don't think it was an example of our finest work, but Prairie stayed light and mostly soft and I didn't fall off.

(close enough to a win for me.)

After I was given my stirrups back S set a "simple" line of canter poles (read: two poles) down the long side on the quarter line.  We've been working P2 off the rail to help with straightness and making me manage her body without relying on the arena fence.  I think it's a good thing.

The poles were set 7 strides apart, which made me think that this was going to be an easy, simple exercise for the mare.

Not so.

Not even remotely so.

We started on the left lead, at the scary end of the arena where Prairie was mostly focusing on me (and not on jump standards cougars in the corner).  Because I'm a chicken and rarely canter my horse all the way down the longside in the big outdoor, I asked politely if we could start by cantering the first pole on a circle.  This sounded even easier than cantering down the line, but still - not so.

Prairie was good, but as soon as she saw the pole everything went to crap.  Head popped up, shoulders fell out, she pulled down onto her forehand, etc.


Once we cleared the pole I'd sit up (I think) half halt, and the mare would balance nicely...

Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter... little lovely canter... POLE!!!!!

So, we spent 10 minutes getting me straight and sitting on my outside seatbone, balancing the mare, and trying to pretend like there wasn't a pole on the ground (there is no spoon?). Once we mastered the (one) pole on the (nice) circle, we went for the "simple line."

Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter... little lovely canter...pole? got it.. no big deal. Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter...OMG ARE WE GOING STRAIGHT!!?!?

daaaaaammmmmnnnn  (For the record the mare did the line in 4 strides, after 1.5 normal strides if that gives you an idea of how nicely she can "extend.")

So we repeated the cycle,  I tried really hard to sit UP and not get pulled out of the tack, and we aimed to get 5 nice strides in the line. Eventually we got it and Prairie was so balanced and light about it that I could have done it on the buckle.

But then we changed directions and the jump standards cougars in the corner looked even more terrifying and hungry when we were going to the right.

Back to the trot... which, since the arena was freshly dragged showed our supper awesome 4 loop serpentine as we wiggled our way down the line closer to the jump standards cougars in the corner... At this point I had been on for about 40 minutes and between Prairie getting a bit tired (lots of cantering) and also losing focus, she was getting really heavy and really dull to my legs.  I was totally feeding into it and even though S was reminding me to "release my half halts" I'm pretty sure I was trying to muscle the mare around with nothing but my ring fingers and biceps (ouch).

Because of the jump standards cougars in the corner, we ended up schooling the "simple" line at the trot for another 10ish minutes before I felt like I had anything resembling a focused horse and a shot in hell of making it through at a canter without bolting off into the woods. 

But we did it.  The first few times through were... sad.  But slowly P2 got more relaxed, slower and stayed a bit balanced.  I won't fail to mention that this transformation seemed to coincide with me stepping into my outside stirrup, staying tall, oh and reeeeleeeaasssssing my half halts.

I am proud to say that while my outside rein really did almost rip my fingers off a few times, I did a spectacular job of not cheating and grabbing at my inside rein.  Even when we were galloping off slightly uncontrolled.

So, to sum up:

I need to sit up.  I need to stay to the outside.  "Lengthening" our stride in the canter for First level shouldn't be an issue (but returning to a working canter might be..) and nobody got eaten or even attacked by the jump standards cougars in the corner.

Good Mare.


  1. Sounds like you both got a workout, and a good lesson! Lots of posts going around about the outside hipbone / rein recently.

    Well done. :)

  2. Whew that lesson wore me out and I wasn't even riding LOL! It sounds like you're definitely getting her figured out though. I totally forgot about the whole step into the outside stirrup thing. My trainer used to have me do that too. :) Keep up the great work!


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