This is a post I started writing last Thursday and have only just got a chance to come back to and finish off. It is no longer true that there is snow on the ground, but it was when I started writing this…
The snow here is still thick on the ground, fields and riding schools. Most of the roads are now just wet, and quite manageable, but there is more heavy snow forecast for tomorrow, so life won’t be back to normal any time soon.
Because of the snow all the horses are not being turned out and so the only exercise they can get is to be ridden. So everyone’s doing their best to ride every day if they can. This is not easy when there is only 1 small school not under snow (usable by up to 3 horses at one time) for both teaching and livery use. This week has been full of mad scrambles to tack up and get in the school before someone else, which doesn’t breed a nice atmosphere.
To look for the silver lining, this situation has been forcing me get some experience at riding in a small school with 2 other horses and trying to obey the rules for passing (left hand to left hand being the main one) while trying to work in a way that is useful for us but not cut anyone up or head for a collision! This has been much easier some days than others. Our slight intermittent steering issues on the right rein do not make this any easier either.
The steering issues are caused by 2 things:
1 He doesn’t like going that way, so he’s more likely to gently suggest another direction. He’s not a horse that would ever put in a quick change of direction to put his rider onto the ground, but he does ignore more of my aids on this rein than the other.
2 He thinks leg means go forwards. Not useful when you need to use leg to move him over and correct his “directional suggestion”.
So I need to train him to move away from my leg.
I hadn’t had a lesson for weeks, which is shocking considering I’ve not had a horse much more than a month, but we kept having to cancel them, first because I wasn’t well, then because they had 3 lessons booked but because of the snow only 1 usable school (and the advanced jump group took priority over individual lessons.)
But yesterday’s went ahead. I arrived an hour early to be sure the snowy roads wouldn’t delay me which gave me the welcome chance to groom and tack up slowly and put both me and Drifter in a good frame of mind for the lesson.
I have to say that the main feature of the lesson was that my instructor confirmed everything I already thought. While it’s nice to have reassurance, she didn’t tell me much I hadn’t already worked out for myself which does make me think it’s not worth paying for another lesson for a few weeks or until I have questions I can’t resolve myself.
The best thing that came out of the lesson was that my instructor got on him for a few minutes.
I’d said, “I can’t get him to bend on this rein” and she rode him and said “Wow, he really doesn’t bend on this rein!”
Yes, I thought. I know that.
I’d said “Whenever I use my legs at all he only reacts by speeding up, never by moving over.” She said, “He doesn’t move away from the leg at all! He just speeds up!”
Err… Yes. Do you ever get the feeling people are either not listening to you or not believing you?!
But it shows it’s not just me. I thought maybe I was riding badly and for a more experienced rider he’d be doing all sorts of tricks. So it’s nice to know it’s not me. 🙂
She suggested that we work on all the things I’d already started working on – lots of circles, spiralling in and out (although I can’t say we’ve ever managed a recognisable spiral yet) and praising any tiny lateral movement I get in response to a “move over” leg aid.
I guess I’d been hoping for some new ideas, but hey, that’s what the internet’s for. I’ve done a little googling and I’m going to be doing more serpentines and asking for a bend when travelling in straight lines as well as the stuff we were already doing.