Thundering Hooves!

9 08 2013

It was back to normal for a Monday this week – unfortunately I have been otherwise engaged every other evening this week to write. One of our number failed to show up for our riding lesson, so I was offered Maddy instead of Duke, who I had been assigned again, but I think you can probably guess what I said. I felt a bit guilty for turning her down, though, because she’s such a lovely horse, but still.

And so we were back on with flatwork exercises, which seemed a little dull in comparison to the previous week’s pole work and tiny jump, but still all good practice and good fun. Where I had previously found Duke to be perfectly forward-going but to need a lot of rider input and correction to go into corners and stay on the track, this week he was actively defiant. He had been put ‘away’ and untacked from a previous lesson, I think, which had led him to believe he was done for the day, and so wasn’t overly happy about being made to work again. Thankfully at my insistence he did ‘soften’ eventually and towards the end we were working together nicely again. I see a pattern here.

I wasn’t criticised for my leg position overly, but we did do some work without stirrups, during which I was told that I could stretch down from the hip more – perhaps this was what the stand-in instructor meant by ‘open up your hips’? I tried to do this, and felt the difference it made. It might not be related, but I found in the days following my lessons that I was noticeably less stiff around the tops of my thighs and loins than I usually find I am. It could just be that my muscles are getting used to it – either way, a positive change.

We did do some canter this week, and it went better than usual. No neck strap for me anymore, I’m proud to say, and no panicking when I started to lose Duke in the run up to it in trot, either; just a succession of calm half-halts to bring him back to me, which my instructor praised me for. I’m getting the hang of things! On the first go we were running at quite a steady pace, which Duke obviously didn’t feel had enough momentum behind it for an upward transition when I asked, so we went round again and got it the second time. I managed to remain relaxed and upright, and to apply my leg to keep him on the track; it gave me a sense of how important impulsion is, and how if you have it, everything else becomes easier in a faster gait. Sadly I didn’t push on with my leg enough in the corner and we spun out off the track and across the centre line to the back of the ride, but I enjoyed the much-improved run up to that point. Especially given the feel of Duke’s canter; I don’t know what breed of horse he is, but stocky and muscular as he is, he has a powerful, thundering canter through which you can feel every great hoofbeat against the ground. Extremely exciting!

We changed reins, and the following exercise was to trot a 20 metre circle at the far end of the school and then transition to canter on arrival back in the first corner. Duke and I enjoyed a good trot up to it, a very controlled turn into the circle, but then Duke stalled, obviously confused that we weren’t doing the exercise he expected us to be doing and I didn’t push him on in time to get back the momentum we had built up. I still managed to kick him back on to an energetic enough trot for the upwards transition to canter in the corner, but sadly it was all a bit confused by then and only lasted a few strides.

My regular instructor always asks at the end of the lesson whether we have any questions, so I took the opportunity to ask her about legs and cantering. Her summary was to push on from the inside, apply the outside leg only if the canter was pushing you into the boards along the outside of the school (so as with the other gaits) and that she saw no reason for positioning the outside leg behind the girth as in the ask after the transition unless you were in a corner, as it serves as an indication to the horse which is the leading leg. All of this makes sense to me, so I’m going with that.

She also said at the very end to one of the other ladies, who had had Symphony, that she thought it was about time she started riding ‘someone a bit more challenging, like Duke.’ I can’t think of anything else to say about this other than, ‘Achievement unlocked.’ Heh.

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2 responses

12 08 2013
mellchan

Woo, no more training wheels! Sounds like you and duke are really hitting it off, have we seen photos of him yet?

19 08 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

Yes, I posted A Photo of Duke a few weeks back. He’s the handsome black heavy horse with white socks, who is rarely seen without his nose against the hay net. Heh.

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