...and I hope the progress never ends! One of the best things my trainer/bo did last week was put me on one of their gaited horses. When I arrived at the barn last Friday evening, she said she had a great relaxation exercise for me to try. She told me to put a barebad pad on BJ - aka very cute black and white Rocky Mountain Spotted Horse - and his bridle, and hop on. The only warning she gave me was if I didn't relax right away, I would fall off. OKAY...
Let me just say, the first lap was way different than any ride I have ever experienced! I have never been on a gaited horse and had not a clue what to do. My husband stepped in the arena and stopped BJ after one lap - my plan was just to run him into a wall :) Once BJ was standing still, my trainer gave me a few instructions - how much rein to take up, how to sit, how to ask for walk, then faster walk, how to stop, etc.
So we started off again in a much slower gait. It was amazing! I loved feeling his back move and the smoothness of his gait. I spent quite a long time at the slower walk then moved up to a faster walk - I never let him totally go- maybe next ride. But what I learned from that ride I don't think I could learn on any other horse - how to totally relax and move with a horse. How to continually breathe deeply with emphasize on the exhale. Priceless!
Saturday is normally Riva's 'day off work'. My daughter, Lex, was home for the weekend from her working student position, and asked if she could go out and ride Riva. She has been riding several young horses at her new position and was anxious to try out her new skills on the Diva. Well of course I agreed she could go out and ride. Since Saturday nights are date nights for my husband and I, I didn't go out to watch. I received a call right after her ride with a full report, though!
Lex focused on forwad - if Riva did not go forward she got a quick tap with the crop. Lex was thankful I had already started laying the ground work with this. As early as this past summer, the touch of the crop would send Riva into bucking fits. No more - she is growing up and realizing the crop is a much stronger leg on.
Lex worked Riva in a very forward trot for most of the ride - threw in lots of direction changes and circles. Riva offered canter several times and Lex rode her thru it. She rode her with two other horses working in the areana, with zero issues. Lex said it was the most fun she has ever had on Riva and had to tell herself it was time to quit and cool her down.
Sunday night I went out to ride and immediately heard from my trainer/bo how fabolous Riva looked on Sat night with Lex riding. No pressure for me to ride her well, hmmm. I got on and really focused on relaxing and breathing deeply. I warmed her up with a nice rhythmic swinging walk - concentrating on keeping my hips open, legs relaxed and back, toes over my knees and pointing forward, and staying light in the stirrup. I exhaled and with a light leg aid asked Riva for trot - and she went! Not only went, she trotted out very forward - ears pricked and focused. I was able to hold the reins with very little pressure - Lex's trainer says you should be able to hold the reins like they are ribbons about to break and I never understood what that meant until that ride.
We spent the remainder of the ride much the same as Lex discribed her Sat ride - forward mare with a happy attitude. Riva even offered a left lead canter and I rode her thru it. I was thrilled!
Monday was farrier day - he was most impressed with the growth in Riva's front feet. This past shoeing was an experiment in stretching to six weeks between visits - we had been on a four week cycle. All four shoes stayed on the entire 6 weeks! Will stick with this timing as long as it works for her.
After Riva's feet were finished, I tacked up to ride. Monday's ride was just as successful as Sundays, maybe even more. I actually felt my heels bouncing down as she trotted - something my trainer has been working on me being able to accomplish and feel. And Riva just seems...happier.
I never would have believed that my tension and or relaxation would cause such changes in Riva. When I relax, she goes forward - when I tense up, she balks. It seems so incredibly simple. The softer I ask, the better she responds.
Now - how to keep that feeling...