Forwards, Grumpy Princess! To Victory!

2 09 2013

I’m very excited at the moment – my lesson this evening was excellent, and I’m pumped ready for Historic Equitation on the weekend. Damian, who has been before, says I’m in for a treat, as the horses there are ‘a world away from anything you’ll find in a riding school’, and I’m feeling confident, competent and up to the challenge.

Anyway, I was delighted this evening to see on the roster that I was down to ride Bramble, who I’ve had nothing to do with since our private lesson together, I don’t think, apart from patting her lovingly on the forehead as I saw other riders bring her into the school as I was leaving. The lady who always takes our money has clear affection for her as well, referring to her as ‘Grumpy Bramble-ina’ as I went to collect her, adding, ‘She’s grumpy, but she’s lovely’. I replied, ‘She’s a very good teacher, to put it diplomatically.’

And it’s true – as lovely as she is once you get to know each other, Bramble is a hard horse to push on, in my experience. She is one  with whom you who have to be strict and have no patience for right from the word go. Every ignored ask from the leg at the beginning of the lesson had to be backed up with the whip or you struggled for the remainder of the hour, and you really couldn’t fall into a false sense of security between exercises and let her go to sleep because you’d never get her going again.

Except tonight, it wasn’t like that.

I was flattered when, in spite of apparent initial reluctance to move, she switched on and started walking beside me – albeit slowly – as I took hold of the reins to lead her out. She pinned her ears and flicked her tail about sulkily as I adjusted her stirrups and girth from the ground, but didn’t make any sudden moves. I mounted her and she dropped her head, again, sulkily, but when I asked her firmly to walk on, she went.

Knowing I would have to ride her forwards all night, I rode her out to the track, as far into the corner as I could safely manage, and pushed her on firmly from the beginning. As a result, without having to nag with my leg or tap her with the whip, I got a nice active walk. So much so I was having to make half-halts to keep her the recommended two horses’ distance from Chilli in front of us in the lead. I’ll willingly admit I couldn’t believe it, and thought she was having a good day, but every time the thought entered my head I’d feel the momentum slip and have to push her on again.

The main exercise today was first riding walk-trot transitions and making the horse listen and respond first time, and then, continuing with the theme of impulsion, learning to control the length of the horse’s stride in the trot. To do this, we rode a short stride down one long end of the school, then a working trot down the short end, then a long stride down the other long side, and then transitioned back to a short stride at the next short end. We did this on both reins, and in both rising and sitting trot. After an initial… disagreement with Bramble about going forwards to trot, I pushed her on into the exercise and it went better than I would have expected. She responded to my leg, she slowed her stide with my rise, she lengthened it when I asked her for more. The more times we went around the school the better and more naturally it came. I felt so happy.

Then we moved on to the canter. Bramble transitioned to canter as soon as I started to think the transition, almost like magic, and I sat her tumultuous canter and managed to keep it going with my leg aid nearly all the way to the back of the ride. I was so happy I got a bit emotional, praised her and cried a little bit. The attempts to canter after that were less of a success- in fact on the second go I nearly slipped out of the saddle, but recovered my balance in a way I don’t think I could have done a year ago. I think I lost my focus because my reaction to probably the most competent cantering I’ve ever done – on a difficult, lazy horse, no less – was a bit intense.

At the end of the lesson, Bramble was as reluctant to go back into her stall as she usually is going out of it, but I think this was down to her disposition rather than any genuine desire to be out of it. I untacked her and gave her the biggest hug and a fuss, and then left, saying hello to another horse I’d never met before with an adorably droopy lip on the way out.

So, Bramble was my palfrey. Now bring me my destrier…

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4 responses

3 09 2013
mellchan

Good job on your canter, might I ask what aids you use to lengthen and shorten your trot?
I hope you might be able to get photos when you go to the historic equitation on the weekend 🙂

3 09 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

Thank you! It mainly seems to be the depth of your rise – you have to push on with the leg until you’ve got the horse moving from the back end, and then you rise low and fast for short strides, and tall and but slow for long strides.

I found that leg aids were helpful in lengthening, and half halts and then going sitting for a few strides if there was no response helped to shorten.

I am sure there will be photos, which I will be happy to share!

3 09 2013
Sparrowgrass

I was also going to ask about the aids, but I’ve been beaten to it 🙂 Very interesting.

3 09 2013
The Dancing Rider

Very interesting. I am familiar with the half halt/sitting re shortening. Glad it is all coming along so nicely! Great job on your cantering.

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