Monday night we took a makeup lesson with Margie. I have certainly improved with my upper body, keeping it back and open most of the time. Had to have a few reminders here and there. Margie is fantastic at tailoring group lessons to the individual while still keeping everyone doing the same thing. The whole class was flatwork, and she had Bentley and I focus on circles: bending before entering into the circle and allowing the circle to happen after the bend. Rather than entering into the circle and then achieving a bend as a result. I found this easier to do when circling on the long ends of the arena. When we came to the short sides, he was sticking his neck out a bit for balance around the turns, making it difficult to achieve the bend in time to make an appropriate sized circle. After a few minutes, I was able to predict our problem areas and was bending him well in the corners, achieving the circle I was looking for.
We also focused on pushing him out onto the circle. Not pushing him out to make the circle larger, but having me use my legs more to send him into the correct shape around the circle, while catching him with my outside leg so he doesn’t stray. After a lot of this, we had beautiful circles in beautiful trot! It was quite fantastic.
We moved on to an exercise where we came down the quarter line, leg yielded over to the rail and as soon as we reached the rail, we did a 10m circle (maintaining the bend). We accomplished this immediately at the walk, and were the first in the lesson to be allowed to move to the trot with it. We also achieved this immediately at the trot! Beautiful beautiful work. The other riders took a while to get this, so we just kept working on it. I was very proud of Bentley because we had never done movements directly following a leg yield before.
We were given permission to canter from Margie, but I opted not to. We had done so well in the trot that I was worried had we cantered, it might erase his memory of the lesson. It also may have led to a fabulous canter, but we will never know now! As soon as we stopped trotting, Bentley looked deep in thought about the lesson, so it seemed best to let the good work sink in instead.
Last night I was torn as to whether or not to ride. A poll to facebook resulted in everyone saying “go for it!” so I made my way up to the barn in my warmest clothes and with a quarter sheet and planned our ride.
I know he doesn’t look happy in the first one, but it was more of a “stop taking pictures and let’s get to work!” grumpy face. He did do a bit of a double take when I opened the barn door. It took some convincing to get him through. Bentley, you should know what happens after you get tacked up… I’m serious! Sidetrack for one minute… look how thick his neck is getting! I havent trimmed his mane, but it looks shorter than when we moved into Myrddin. Lots of good food getting him fat, and good work developing those muscles.
Since I am the only one at our barn crazy enough to ride, and I was expecting it to take at least an hour to warm up enough to get any good work done, I had to plan something to make the ride a little more tolerable. This is what led me to grab my MP3 player and toss it in my pocket.
We got to the ring and I started setting up some trotting poles for later. Instead of following me around, Bentley put himself to work at a working walk around the arena. Thanks for helping warm up Bentley! However, this rush of appreciation for him quickly disappeared when I went to mount and he took off trotting. I know its cold, but please wait until I am aboard! He isn’t fantastic about standing but other than that time, he’s been getting better. I strongly believe it had to do with the cold, he couldn’t wait to get moving and warm, and perhaps was extra hyper because he hadn’t had turnout. I will give him the benefit of the doubt this time, but if he dare try this again in warmer weather we will practice mounting even if it takes all night!
The ring had been raked that day, and brough in some odd snow patterns. These were to be approached very carefully and snorted at with disdain. Eventually I convinced him to go right up to the snow and he snuffled it for a while, then decided it was ok. Once our 10m of walking was up, he couldn’t care less about the snow. Eager to trot, we had a 20 minute power trot with head held high in excitement. By the end he had settled down, we walked a bit and I tested out the music.
I put my music on speaker and slowly increased it to max volume. He flicked his ears and noticed it, but didnt seem too bothered by it. After a few laps walking around the ring, he seemed to even enjoy it. Moving up to trot and eventually canter, he performed wonderfully, never spooking when the song changed or anything. I swear I could even feel his movement change a little each time a new song started. We didnt find a song with the right rhythm for his trot (and I was so busy enjoying a wonderful canter I totally ignored the music!) but as different genres appeared, I could feel him change his movement in the shoulder. Again, rhythm stayed the same, but in some songs over others he seemed to be springier. I think my favourite was when a Mad Caddies song came on, and he really just seemed to start swinging those shoulders. He also really seemed to like when Linkin Park came on. I know I have an article somewhere on my reading list about what music horses like, and how it affects them. One day I will get through it!
Of course, since then every time I hear a song… I listen carefully to the rhythm and make careful notes about songs I am going to add to the “try and see if it matches up” playlist. So far I want to try: Strokes – Last Night, Jimmy Eat Work – Pain, Black Keys – Lonely Boy. Heres hoping one of those is successful, and I am going to keep listening and posting in my car seat at stoplights to try and feel it!
Eventually I will stop looking to match music to rhythm and try to match rhythm to music, but for now, I will stay happy with maintaining a consistent rhythm that he sets out. Now if only I can find a way to make the battery last more than an hour on speakerphone, I am good!