Saturday, February 23, 2013


Let me just begin by saying - I LOVE MY FREAKING HORSE. Srsly. I've been feeling a little down and out lately, a little bummed about my financial situation causing me to be unable to show Gold and even more bummed by some additional bad news that may result in me not showing at all if I want to afford to continue lessons (and lessons are more important to me than anything). Our last lesson wasn't the greatest and our sans draw rein work was dismal and frustrating. Suddenly, it's the end of February, there is a schooling show beginning of April and show season is a mere two months away. Oh and my wickedly awesomely talented coach discovered she is wickedly awesome at snowboarding and has taken up that fun sport in the last month which culminated into her getting into an accident on Friday that shattered her radius and she had to go for surgery this morning! So she's in good spirits and lessons will be fine, but she certainly won't be riding any more sense into Bella before show season! So naturally, I do what I do best - PANIC, stress, fret, worry, contemplate, watch some roping, decide I don't like Dressage anymore, try to convince myself I really don't want to do Dressage anymore and it's not just my paranoia and anxiety at play (about 4 years ago, I decisively claimed I was done riding English, sold my prized Collegiate Dressage saddle, took up Western on my Arab for about 6 months before deciding Western sucks and regretting the entire decision), and then stress some more about Kali murdering me for being an igitwit.

So on Thursday, Katrina had a jumping lesson with me on Jynx and I was a little worried because Jynx hadn't really jumped in probably a month and hadn't had much riding done either since I got back from Mexico. She was a little fidgety and alert in the barn so I figured I better warm her up first. Set up some trot poles and hopped on and she was SO quiet and sweet. We did some walk trot canter with zero issues, listening nicely to me if a little lazy. We went through the poles a few times, no issues (for some reason my brilliant horse finds the most difficult obstacle in life to maneuver through is trot poles), and so I got Katrina to set up a little crossrail and I took her through - what a little dreamboat! Relaxed and happy, through the poles, hopped over the crossrail and lovely canter out on the correct lead. Have I mentioned I love my horse? The amount of actual jump training this horse has had over the last year is about pencil tip sized, and yet here she is, happy as a clam to just plod through as if we've been schooling it all winter! I went once more and was satisfied so I threw Katrina up on her! Jynx was just unreal - beautiful even hunter like paces, steady with her headset, listening well to Katrina with no ear pinning or tail swishing. I sent them through the trot poles a few times, no problems, just working on straightness and steadiness as Jynx likes to slow down for the poles but speed up for fences. I set up a little crossrail for her after the poles, and they went through flawlessly - she really takes care of her rider over fences!

I set up a second crossrail and we worked going through the gymnastic - this is where Jynx gets a bit more challenging! One fence is fine, but she really wants to rush through when she sees that second fence. So we worked on tons of half halts and I even got Katrina to stop her in front of the first fence to really work on the concept of half halting enough to make her listen as Katrina just doesn't have the strength I do. I'm really not worried about putting Jynx off the fence as she's virtually never refused a fence and it helped establish to Katrina what I was talking about. It worked beautifully - the next time around, I told Katrina to "think stop" up to the pole and then just let her go as normal and we got a LOVELY relaxed horse over the crossrail, trotted to the vertical and popped over quietly. After that she found it much easier to rate Jynx before the fence to have her calm into the gymnastic. She did a few crossrail to 2'0" verticals and they did lovely! I am so proud of both of them!

Anyway, fast forward to tonight. I had a long talk with Shay-la (well, text talk anyway) about my icky feelings and how down I've been feeling and kind of not where I had hoped to be by almost spring of 2013. We discussed working without draw reins more, because all the lateral stuff is fun and such and the draw reins have definitely boosted my confidence but now we're reaching a point where I'm just panicking because I don't know how to ride without them. Or at least I convinced myself I don't Because I don't listen to my brilliant coach. Nope, I listen to those ugly shadowy nasty feelings deep in the pit of my stomach that always try to bring me down and convince me I'm just a big nobody and have no business thinking I can succeed at anything. Yeah. I know I need therapy. But that's a whooooooooooole other blog ladies and gentlemen!


Srsly. I just decided to LET GO. Not be so serious. Don't stress out so much. Just get on my horse and be patient and get to know her without the draw reins. Deep inside, I expected it to go terrible and yet I was somehow okay with that. It was important to me to not get upset with Jynx, to know this isn't her fault, and to not blame her for these perceived faults she has because I struggle with certain things. I think I've been so worried about being perfect at EVERYTHING, I just needed to take a step back and realize "so what if I can't sit the trot perfectly yet, I DON'T NEED TO IN TRAINING LEVEL!". Jynx was just....beyond words. We walked a few circuits on a loose rein and I bumped her up into a trot and just kept my reins fairly long - she just went there. She warmed up absolutely beautifully, taking my long rein and just stretching that glorious neck long and low, steady in my hands, completely soft in the jaw. We just worked in posting trot, gradually picking up a bit more contact in my outside rein, concentrating on locking my elbow to my side without blocking her. To the left, she was just so perfect I could have cried. In reality, she was probably the same as she's always been but my ability to just let go and accept that HER HEAD WILL COME UP SOMETIMES AND I JUST NEED TO RIDE THAT produced relaxation in me. I've become so obsessed with head seat and WHY?! Glancing in the window (yeah you have a mirror, I have a window, move on), even when her head seemed "up" it's still not UP. She's stiffer in the neck, stiffer in the jaw, a little more resistant at times but it doesn't look horrible, it isn't this grotesque image of some rank novice bouncing around on her star gazing cow pony. And when she does go softer, just wow!

To the right was a bit more difficult, I REALLY struggle keeping my left hand as a steady outside rein. Her head was up, neck stiff a bit more often than it was soft and it still wasn't terrible, just not as fluid and supple as she is to the left. I just worked on pushing through it, staying as steady as possible. After some nicer strides, I asked for the canter which wasn't overly pretty. She went around nice enough but I could feel myself just NOT stable on my outside rein, scrunching my shoulders, compensating by tightening up. We came back down and I decided I should probably be working to the left first! So we changed direction, and back to my lovely soft and supple horse and lovely anchored outside rein with supple elastic inside rein. Our transitions need definite work, but the canter to the left was much easier - it smoothed out within a few strides, her head came down, some happy snorts and we were back in business! Our downwards transitions were a bit rough, my whip is broken so without that aid, she was really getting behind my leg at times. But back into posting trot and man did she ever stretch down! I swear we may have been accused of doing rollkur! I didn't let her down into a stretchy circle immediately, and that head and neck become so round and supple and just stayed like that for a full circle! After that I let her down, more happy snorts.

So after some amazing work to the left that just had me on cloud nine, I decided we needed to go back and at least attempt to fix some issues to the right! We began in posting trot, and my lovely giving horse decided she was nice and relaxed and warmed up now, so forgave me a little and went a little lower even with my bouncy rein. We just stayed on the wall as I concentrated on really getting my left hand to co-operate a little more. Gradually, she became softer and softer, and my hand became steadier and steadier. As her head became a bit lower, she became a little heavier in my hands - and suddenly Kali's voice is ringing in my head "when she pulls on you, she should pull you DEEP into the saddle, not forward, DEEPER" and something just clicked. My shoulders rolled back, I glued that outside hand to my side, and WE MEANT BUSINESS. Her entire outline changed as I felt her back lifting under me, that glorious head and neck like putty in my hands. The deeper I got, the easier it was to keep that outside rein steady! We bumped up into canter, lousy transition, but suddenly my hand is like a ROCK, connected to my seat never leaving the saddle as I encourage her on to just be softer and softer. It's just an amazing feeling when you suddenly understand, grasp and just take hold of a concept that's evaded you for so long. After a few lovely circles, we came back down to sitting trot, and she just stayed with me, curling down, somehow going lower and lower without ever getting heavier in my hands, a picture of just perfect relaxation and giving muscles. We went into posting trot for some nice stretchy circle as reward and me marveling at having probably one of the most brilliant rides on my horse in months - AND WE DID IT WITHOUT DRAW REINS.

What was that? I DON'T LIKE DRESSAGE?! Pffffft, where'd you hear a delusional thing like that?


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