I expect this to turn into quite a long post … so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Drifter appears to be saying that long posts are not his cup of tea, but then this is a picture taken after I’d ridden him in my lesson and then pulled his mane, so I think he’d had enough of me by this point.
The quest to canter to the right has so far included three visits from the physiotherapist and quite a few schooling sessions, at least one of which was with my instructor riding him so that she could better advise me.
The phsysio has really made a marked difference. He is much more even to ride now. I am quite asymmetric myself, although this is an area I’ve really improved in, but both my instructor and I were blaming me for quite a bit of wonkyness that was actually the horse not the human. Since he’s had his sore bits loosened up suddenly I don’t feel like my right leg is floating around unconnected to the rest of my body. I no longer get 10 minutes into a ride and feel like one leg is exhausted and the other isn’t. My “feel” for him has really improved. At first I assumed that was from the lunge lessons, but I wonder now whether it’s because it’s hard to feel a horse that’s trying not to use one quarter as much as the other. Now he’s moving freely we’re not using our energy disagreeing over whether he’ll use all of his legs equally, and have more energy left to think about everything else.
The physio said that because of his weak side being very weak circles are hard for him and that we should do squares with round corners. This makes sense, and now I can feel that circles are hard for him. Now that I can feel his balance more I can feel that the basic walk trot dressage test is actually pretty challenging for him. It’s not just because of the rider that the circles weren’t round and the turns onto the centre line were iffy. I had my heart set on doing a walk-trot-canter dressage test as soon as we could. It looks now as if that might be a way off. I thought all our issues were about my riding standard needing to improve and hadn’t realised he was struggling as well. I imagine that he’s not been schooled that much or surely he’d be more even? I know he’s hunted, and I’m told his habit of looking to the outside rather than the inside probably stems from having been lunged a lot in the past, so perhaps his schooling has been neglected.
So he’s been getting some professional schooling alongside my efforts. When my instructor rode him she said that she found it much easier to get him to canter when he had lots of impulsion and roundness. So that’s what I’ve been working on. In walk and trot, mostly. I’m finding that hard enough to keep me busy without asking for the canter transition as well. As he’s getting schooled by the staff that means he can work on the canter without me and I can work on impulsion and roundness without worrying about the canter for the meantime, and then think about the canter once I’m more at home with how I need to get him going before asking for the transition.
For the first time I feel like I’m being taught how to ride him in a way that will improve him, rather than just how to stop, go and steer. But I suppose while I was struggling with stop, go, steer (partly because of my skill level but also, unbeknown to be and the instructors, because of this soreness and weakness he was hiding) those things had to be sorted out first. I had felt like my riding wasn’t improving the way it ought to be, despite repeating endlessly to myself that everyone learns at different paces and adults are always slower than children and teens. Well perhaps most riders of my level of experience are on horses who find it much easier than mine does. The school horses I’ve met can all do walk trot tests in their sleep, even with very poor riders, because that’s their job. If one started struggling on one rein the instructors would spot it sooner or later and it would get sorted out. So when the teens ask me for the 100th time when I’m going to start jumping, I’ll take a deep breath and remind myself that we’re making great progress with the bodies and minds we have been given, his and mine both.
From time to time I wonder if I should have some lessons on a school horse, but it seems pretty pointless to pay extra to ride a school horse while paying staff to ride mine! If the not-yet-jumping starts to get to me I might try some jump lessons on a school horse, but if it gets to that I might if Drifter & I can try some tiny jumps in trot, on straight lines that won’t challenge his balance. I get the feeling that he likes to jump – if there are poles up he’s interested in them (although he does not like the look of some of the fillers at all). The instructor who teaches beginner jumping is more in the “chuck them at it and see if they hit the ground” school of thought rather than something more cautious. I would be more in the market for “tiny jump the horse can walk over to build some confidence about the whole thing in horse and rider”. But that’s all probably a long way off.
Unfortunately I’ve now got a virus and haven’t been well enough to ride this week, which is not going to help our progress.
Back to the cantering… at the end of my lesson last weekend we did do a little cantering. I might suggest you turn the volume down before watching because my instructor can be quite loud…