I ended yesterday’s post by saying that I was going to expect more from my horse. This morning I rode early enough to have the school to myself and went with that mind-set. I carried a crop. Usually I don’t. I struggle to keep my reins from getting gradually pulled longer and longer and so adding something else to my hand just makes things harder for me. As I never need any extra incentive to get him going forward I have never felt the lack of one. Occasionally I have wanted to discipline him from the saddle and smacked him with my hand on his shoulder, which I found less inconvenient than carrying a stick I’m not going to use 99 rides out of 100. But today I felt that carrying it might back up my attitude that I expected him to work better than he usually does for me. If it got in my way (or he decided to rocket off) I could always drop it and continue as usual.
After a warm up we got to work. With his education session from the instructor fresh in his mind the arguments we had were all within my capacity. With less effort than I expected I had him carrying himself. Keeping him settled and light in both hands was a challenge for me and I’m sure my position suffered for concentrating on his but at least some of the time I managed it. I insisted he was settled and listening at the walk before we trotted and similarly at the trot before we cantered. We didn’t canter that much because we’d worked so hard and well at the other gaits first, but all gaits had some pretty nice moments. Towards the end of the session I realised Mr S had come to watch us. He is not an equestrian but he, without prompting, commented on Drifter’s improved position and said he looked more obedient.
The crop stayed laid over my thigh the whole time. I managed my reins and the whip without difficulty (although I realise now that I kept it always in my right hand rather than swapping it over when we changed the rein).
All in all it was very satisfying. He went much, much better than I’ve ever had him go before. There was a lot to work on but a great deal to be pleased about. At one point I caught sight of us in the mirror and saw again that pretty curve of neck that I saw when the instructor rode. It turns out that expecting more goes a very long way to getting more. The challenge for me will be to maintain that when I ride after a day at work; when I ride in the cold, the dark and the rain; when we’re hungry or tired. But I’ve seen a glimpse of what it could be like and it looked pretty good from where I was sat.