|Best view on Earth.|
The large ring was still freshly dragged from this weekend, so Harley and I got to make some new tracks in the harrow lines. I love that. We warmed up with a nice long walk on the buckle, then I picked up the reins and started walking some small circles. The circles turned into turn-on-the-hocks corners and finally 180 degree walking pirouettes. Have I mentioned that I like lateral work? Harley likes it, too. I take him around very slowly, feeling his shoulders move and thinking a little haunches-in to keep his hindquarters engaged. We rode in a clinic last year with an eventing coach from Delaware and he asked us to do a pirouette on a whim. He looked pretty shocked when Harley marched around without too much trouble. Since we had never demonstrated that in a lesson before, I was very happy to see that our efforts were not lost to a discerning eye.
Next came our trot warm up. I practiced some of the homework from my last lesson. I tried to find the balance from our lesson going to the left. When I found it, my teacher would say "memorize this feeling". Going right is still way easier. I jiggle the inside hand a little and Harley gets downright gorgeous and light as a feather. However, every time we changed direction to go left, we lost the connection. He tossed his head up, hollowed and rushed forward. Every inch of me wanted to "fix it" by driving with my legs, lowering my left, inside hand and pulling him into a frame. But I resisted the temptation. It would be one thing if we were in a show and I needed him to look perfect for every step, but this was not a show. This was training. We both need to learn how to find the right balance, not lean on each other or prop each other up. Eventually we found it. I had to keep repeating the homework from my lesson and Harley came round, literally and figuratively. He was also light and slower than before. The power coming from his hindquarters was balancing us instead of just shooting us forward. That was the feeling.
Four trot poles were set up in the middle so we took a break from circle work and trotted over them in both directions. I kept my eyes up and did not allow Harley to speed up on the approach. He did not touch a single pole and lifted himself over every one. It was so much fun.
Finally the canter. Keeping things consistent, I wanted to strive for the same balance that we had worked toward earlier in the ride. We schooled trot-walk-trot. I encouraged him to march into the contact for a few steps of walk before picking up the trot. Trot to walk is by far the most difficult transition for us. It is so easy to lose the connection by losing the stretch. He also likes to anticipate the upward transition and tighten his neck. Once we incorporated the canter, we were really working. Walk-trot-canter-trot-walk, repeat. I tried to feel for his shoulders to come up. I corrected myself a few times when I started to lean forward. Let his shoulders come to me. I used my voice so that my legs could remain relatively passive. This reduces his need to anticipate and seems to make him wait more. It just shows that my physical aids need to be smaller still. Always smaller. My horse likes to challenge me as much as I like to challenge him. And it was so cool that he barely broke a sweat. It was a great ride.