Before we get to the Lee Pearson lesson I thought I’d better do a general riding update. Also we bought a new camera today but I haven’t had a chance to take it to the stables, so the photos are unrelated to the text.
I had felt that Drifter and I have improved a lot lately, and I seemed to be picking up a lot from my peers, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly, as when I rode twice last week with a girl who I cannot call a teen anymore since she turned 20. She likes us to walk round the school next to each other talking for substantial periods of time, which often does not appeal to me because I want to get on and work, but I had a couple of days where time was less of an issue and I found I enjoyed giving our rides a different pattern with her. Drifter found it intensely irritating to walk for a long time but for that very reason I thought it was good for him. He would have preferred it if her mare didn’t pull faces at him, but he accepted his place at the bottom of the pecking order and I found that after a while he resigned himself and went rather pleasantly on the bit for a while. On the right rein (his easy bend) everything was quite harmonious but when we changed the rein our issues with bend were really apparent. He does find it harder to bend that way, but when I drew my friend’s attention to it she watched for a few corners and pointed out I was hanging on the right (outside rein) so blocking the bend and confusing what I was asking for. This tied in with what I had noticed in the other direction previously: when something isn’t going how I wanted I tend to cling to the right rein, thus pulling him off the track. So it seems I always hang on the right rein as soon as I feel something isn’t going right. Once I corrected this with her in walk we got better bend (it’s still not as good as the other side, but at least it’s a bend!) Hopefully I can be mindful of this and stop doing it.
During that first ride we discussed my crop – the fact that I think I’ve got the hang of carrying it without dropping it or flailing it around too much, but haven’t got any idea of how to use it. She offered me the loan of a schooling whip, saying she’d never got the hang of crops and I might find it easier.
I got used to riding with the longer whip but found Drifter a little … eager… while I was holding it. He is a forward horse anyway, but it was more hollow and running-away type of forward than usual.
Good Friday came and although I’d thought I would ride, I found myself lacking the energy. He’d been out in the fields in the morning, so he didn’t need to be exercised, so I gave riding a miss. I pulled his mane, and although it is not the neatest finish I’ve ever achieved, it is the first time I’ve finished and felt it was as short as I’d wanted. I also experimented with taking a little off the tail although I wasn’t really sure what I wanted there. I’m not sure he’d suit a pulled tail, even if I felt like doing it, so I probably need to be sure to leave enough that I can still plait it, and the bits that seemed most tempting to pull were the bits I’d use in a plait, so I left it. But I have discovered that he does not react badly if I pull his tail.
After pulling I went out to see who was riding. Lady-with-a-pony was there. She’s been making great progress although her confidence issues keep her from seeing it. She was cantering quite nicely but felt he was going too fast (well he wouldn’t give us any trouble in a race but then we do go too fast!) The other lady riding at the same time, who is very experienced and encouraging, suggested that she try cantering on a circle to stop him speeding up. Lady-on-a-pony did not think she could do this but the other rider and I both told her the first time we did it we thought we couldn’t either. To build her confidence we got her trotting nice circles before she tried a canter and she made a pretty good go of it in the end. While I was watching, encouraging and advising I realised that while I’m really pleased Drifter and I can canter circles now, I pretty much always ask for only one circle, then trot, pat and praise. And our circles are really only vaguely round. I saw that I need to start working by staying on the circle – cantering at least 2 circles, or alternatively just a few strides, before coming back to trot and staying on the circle. Once that would have been beyond us, but it’s time to try reaching for the next step.
Over the time Lee Pearson’s been coming to teach at our yard his popularity has spread by word of mouth with the consequence that by the time this weekend came we had a day and a half of teaching for him. I was down for a Sunday lesson. On Saturday I turned up to ride early as I wanted to ride indoors so it would have to be before Lee started in there at 10.00e
I was keen to go inside as that’s the school with the correct dimensions for the dressage test and also because I wanted to check just how unsquare our halts are in the mirror, and be able to try tapping the offending quarter with the borrowed long whip.
Lee drives his car into the school and teaches from within it, so both doors were tied open to let him drive in when he arrived. I would not usually ride with the doors open, but saw no reason not to – I was aware I’d need to take more care riding near the doors because Drifter would be tempted by the visible freedom but I didn’t think it would be a problem. I would be mindful that at any point a car might drive in, but D is sensible in traffic so again I was not concerned. As it happened Lee didn’t arrive until after we’d finished anyway.
We warmed up and I felt he was not particularly listening to me, in particular ignoring my downwards transitions and barging through my rein aids. I tried to get him more responsive with a series of quick transitions but it didn’t seem to do the trick, so after a little while I decided to just run the dressage tests and see what happened. They were … fast. But I did prove to myself that I’ll be able to get through both tests with or without his cooperation! Interestingly the halts were (for us) surprisingly square. I wondered if the very holding of the schooling whip had triggered the memory that halts are supposed to be square. It occurred to me later it might be the extra energy from the speed improving them.
So time for some of our new circle work. After some trot circles I decided the first thing I’d ask for in canter was 2 full 20 m circles at C. Not one and three-quarter circles, not two and a bit, an exact 2, starting and ending at C. And we got it first time. He was surprised by the second circle and so the balance was not as good but I got exactly what I planned. After that success I tried a series of trot and canter transitions before changing the rein to try the same in the other direction.
I’d started on the easy side on purpose but now we were on the right rein things might be different. I sort of got my two circles to start with … but the second had a little hiccup in it. Was that a buck? I was so focussed on getting my two circles that all else was a secondary concern. In hindsight I probably ought to have at least shouted at him, but the good point of my focus was that message to him was that bucking does not get you out of doing what you’re asked!
So we carried on working the circle in trot and canter …until the canter got a bit quick and went tearing off the circle down to the open doors at the A end of the school. Oops! I did not turn him with finesse and delicacy but we stayed in the school! Then I realised we were in a tug of war down the reins and tried giving him the reins back to see if he’d react by coming back to me (sometimes works) … but no, still careering around the track. I felt the long whip was really not helping and wanted to drop it but was afraid if I did he’d see it move and get faster or worse, it would hit him as he fell and he’d get faster. Several laps of the school later I got him back to me and regained my circle and reinstated the lesson. I also decided I did not want to carry the schooling whip again.
We cooled down and left before Lee arrived. We’d see him tomorrow.