Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wracking Up The Stars

Harley is on a roll.  He has collected many stars in the past two weeks.

Star number 1: A body condition score of 5+ and clean blood work

Star number 2: Super floaty trot (Dare I say, cadence?!)

Star number 3: A smooth, flying change from left to right

Star number 4: Being a model ambassador for the horse

Star number 5: Lungeing through a deep puddle of water

I just can't keep up, but I am loving it.  

The fall vet visit was a blast, because we did not have to have the conversation about how to improve his weight.  I also had blood work run to ensure that he does not have an infection hiding in there.  When you have a horse with allergies who periodically coughs, you have to be careful that the allergy symptoms are not covering up another illness.  His blood work came back absolutely perfect.  He is healthy as, well, a horse!

Harley has had two sets of children visit with him in the past two weeks.  He stood like a champ for both visits, waiting patiently while little hands patted him, brushed dirt off his coat, and laughed at his funny faces.  Little children inevitably forget that they are not supposed to walk behind the horse.  Harley is a good first-horse for children to be around, because he is very forgiving of those types of mistakes.  He stands solid and, even with his sensitive nature, is not bothered at all by the excitement and unpredictability that accompanies little kids.  I was so proud of him and it was a lot of fun to introduce little children to a big horse.  Parents and grandparents alike commented on what a nice horse he was.  They were preaching to the choir, but I still liked hearing those compliments.

I rode him during afternoon lessons last week, so we had a little audience.  Harley was moving out so beautifully.  I could feel the energy traveling from his hind legs to my seat, up to my elbows and down my lower arms to the bit.  There was no break or kink in the lines.  I could adjust the tempo or stride length and the connection remained, true and powerful.  At some point, I could see and feel his shoulders coming up and swinging freely.  I almost called out to the barn visitors,

"Are you seeing this?"

But, this would have been in vain, because they were not riders and would not have been able to see what I was feeling.  I kind of laughed to myself at that thought.  I would have to enjoy it alone. 

Harley was floating. 

I have been working on myself a lot lately.  I keep imagining that there is room from his hind legs to keep traveling forward through my seat and waist each time we make a transition or while we are moving forward.  This is keeping me more upright and reminding me to keep my core fully engaged.  I have discovered that I have a bad habit of collapsing my waist and opening the back of my seat.  I think the image of his hind legs stepping forward has made me aware of this.  It is almost like his hind legs step forward and tip my seat forward out of alignment if I am not thinking about keeping my seat closed and receiving that energy.  I did not realize that I was doing that and quite a lot, especially in the canter.  My position must be better as indicated by that floaty trot and he gave me some of the absolute best walk-canter-walk he has ever done on the same ride:  relaxed, balanced transitions with barely anything in the reins.  He was listening so closely, I could feel him in my mind.  Please allow me to remind you that I am a very scientific person, but that was how tuned in he felt.  I could hardly believe it, because walk to canter is very challenging to his relaxation and canter to walk is very challenging to his balance.  Improving the rider's position is such an effective way to improve the horse.  It was like all the static was gone.  I love relearning that over and over again.   

And to think, when I started years ago, I thought that dressage was more about the horse.  
I was so wrong.

The clean, smooth, gorgeous flying change in his more challenging direction arrived on a previous ride after lots of circle work, tempo changes, and more walk-canter-walk transitions.  Harley felt very through and connected along the inside of his body.  This is work continued from a previous post where I described how I have been using the inside rein more.  That's right.  The inside rein.  I have been neglecting it for a long time, with the feeling that using it was bad.  I guess I had "inside-rein-guilt-issues".  They are dissolving quickly and as a result, I believe that Harley's suppleness, throughness, and relaxation have improved, with his balance following closely behind.  Having the inside rein improve his balance is so counter-intuitive to me.  I see use of the inside rein as something that sets a horse off balance, but this has not been the case.  I guess that I should acknowledge that the inside rein is not working in a vacuum.  All of my aids are present.  I must just be learning how to let the inside play its part more effectively.

And finally, I lunged Harley yesterday.  He walked.  He trotted.  He cantered.  He stretched his neck and back, all in a plain halter.  No extra gear necessary.  We practiced transitions and then I drew the line in to decrease the circle.  He trotted smaller circles around me with beautiful bend and balance, as if he had an invisible rider.  Then I asked him to trot through a big, deep puddle at one end of the arena.  I let him enter the water and do whatever felt natural to him.  I fully expected him to walk or stop, but he didn't.  Harley kept trotting and picked his feet up as he pranced through the water.  He did try to drift to the side a little, but the puddle was so wide that there was no going around it, so with a couple repetitions he was marching straight through.  He started dropping his neck, in stretchy circle fashion, and dragging his mouth through the water, coming up with water dripping from his cheeks and jaw as he continued to trot around me.  Tons of praise and "Good Boy's" were in order after that!

Harley.
You are a five out of five!

Stars sound delicious.  More, please.

20 comments:

  1. Yeah! Nice work with Harley. You sound so happy and pleased it shines through in your writing. Good for you and Harley. Don't be so stingy with the stars in my book Harley is definitely a ten!

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    1. I will tell Harley. He will be happy to hear that!

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  2. You and Harley are making progress on all fronts! How exciting!! Floaty trot, connection, effective seat... all wonderful stuff. Wheee!!

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    1. I want to remember these little milestones and hopefully recreate some of them. :)

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  3. Wow, Harley sounds like such an amazing horse :)

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    1. One of the adults with the children who visited with us new Harley when I first bought him nearly six years ago. She saw me riding him and could not believe that he was the same horse. She admitted that she had wondered what I saw in him when I bought him. Now she understands!

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  4. Wow, Harley is top of the class! Long may you continue like this :D

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  5. Sounds like you and Harley have had a fantastic couple of weeks. :D

    GHM (and Harley) are right - don't hold back on the stars!! ☆☆☆

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    1. Thanks, Calm, Forward, Straight!

      How do you make those little stars in the comment? That is neat!

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    2. I use a mac - hold down option, command and t keys at the same time to get the menu. I think the method is different for a pc... here's a google answer: "You can find all the symbols for every font by using the Character Map. It will probably be found in Start--> Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools."

      Hope that helps. ☺

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    3. Thanks for the follow-up!

      ♘♥☆

      (Harley loves stars.)

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  6. Lol at your photo caption!!!

    I'm glad Harley is going so well. :)

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    1. Harley prefers edible praise. ;)

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  7. I LOVE the puddle story. And Harley's more of a ten ... even on a scale of five. :0)

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    1. Thanks! I thought that was good to include considering he trouble we had at that rainy show this summer. Harley was like "what puddle?".

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  8. Congratulations on all the stars! I like your visualizations.

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  9. Fantastic. Yes, dressage is about both horse and rider. That is why I am so fascinated by it. Bend... I've heard a lot about that lately too. I am doing ground exercises targeting that as Oberon likes to stick his nose outside the circle... stubborn pony :)

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    1. That is a very natural way for a horse to balance on his own. I am sure that you and him will get there before you know it!

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