The lesson this morning was awesome. I couldn't sleep last night because I was so nervous. I had butterflies and was worried what Jane would think of me. Three weeks Sam has been in training, three weeks since I have been able to ride. Would Sam be calm for me? Will I understand the new aids? Will he now just be really forward and I will feel really unsafe? I was awake at 5am but didn't have to get up until about 7am. I decided to get up just after 6am, dressed, had a milo, checked emails, went through the pain of getting a boot on my foot and then headed out to the paddock. I got a little side tracked with the emails so left a little later than I had planned. I dragged all my equipment up to the wash bay to tack Sam up because it is in the shade at that hour of the morning and it was already hot. Sam followed me out happily and stood happily in the wash bay while I fussed around, brushing, cleaning hooves, tacking up. Jane arrived and I met her down at the shed to grab my caverson from her. I bridled Sam and led him into the round yard and waited for Jane...................
My heart was pounding so I begged in a whisper to Sam - 'Please look after me'. I took a crate in with me to stand on to mount - just to help that foot a little more as it was already pounding from being in my boot. Sam stood rock still and stayed there for a few minutes while we waited for Jane and while I remembered what it was to breath. In and out, deep, slow breath in, slow breath out. How stupid did I feel, why was I so scared? Jane came in and asked me to just walk around how I normally would. After a circuit she called me into the middle and started to change my position. She shortened my stirrups a hole and bought my lower leg forward. Straight away I felt deeper and a little safer in the saddle - I was sitting in the saddle. We walked on some more and she got me to sit back, straighten and to bring my head in. She said I was riding with my head sticking out so my ears weren't in line!!!!!! I felt very uncomfortable as you do when someone makes you change your position but when you know it is for the better you keep lugging away at it.
(Interesting everybody has always told me to lengthen my stirrups - if you want to ride dressage you have to have long legs. I mentioned this to Jane and she said that I have to feel secure in my riding before we look at those sort of things - I LOVED THAT!!!!!)
We worked on stopping Sam. This was done by sitting deeper in the saddle, then closing with the thighs, knees, hands. Most of the time Sam was stopping with my seat - Awesome! Next was to get him to go. This was done by squeezing my seat, using a forward motion with my seat then a bump with my legs. I still had to bump, I don't think I was using my seat enough but practice makes perfect. Next came turning. Lets say we wanted to turn to the left, turn my belly button to the left, inside leg on but keep him going forward, sit up straight, if he drifts out through the shoulder have the outside leg there ready and outside rein there ready for it incase that happens. Up into the trot, fix that position, concentrate on lower legs forward, sitting back, bringing my head back - make Sam's ears look further away!!!!! Belly button where I want to go. Don't grip with those calves. It was interesting as the right rein has always been stiff, I couldn't bend Sam at all. Well in the trot I was twisting my upper body to the outside! As you could imagine this also meant I was pulling on that outside rein!!!!!! POOR SAM! I turned my body to the right and what do you know Sam started to bend to the right! Inside leg on he stayed out on the circle instead of falling in!
We then ventured out into the large riding paddock. Jane rode her pony Mojo and we went for a walk around the paddock. I haven't been very brave going through the small gullies so Jane took me up and down gullies. Gave encouragement, reminding me to release my hands forward so I don't bump Sam in the mouth. All was going well and we were talking about riding and we just started to do trot circles, Sam was tense and I felt that he was going to 'go' out from under me. Jane got me to slow the trot using my rising, reminded me of my position so in the end I wasn't thinking about what his head was doing but concentrating on me. Once I had my position right Sam calmed down straight away and trotted around rhythmical, even, hardly falling in and out!!!!!! We continued to walk on. We got to a gully and I asked Sam to halt so Mojo could go first, Sam went to go a bit quick through the gullie. I became tense, and said 'Sam' in a strong voice. Jane turned around and talked me through it. She then made me walk down and trot up through the gullies. Over and over again. The aim - TO TRUST SAM!!!!!! He isn't going to buck, pigroot, ping off when we get to the top and I have to trust him!!!!!! He always came back to a walk when we got to the top! I think this was a key moment - TRUST!
I am so used to having a 'school horse'. That is what Sam reminded me of. A school horse that I always had to chase to keep going. Since being at Wagga he has been alive - interested in life, happy to go out for a ride. I should be happy that Sam seems happier and wants to go forward!
We then walked through the gullies, over logs and that was the end of the lesson. Jane was going over to the 'arena' to work Mojo and she invited me to join her if I wanted. I figured why not. I trotted Sam over to the where the show jumps are and concentrated again on my position. Everytime I felt Sam get a little tense I checked my position and it was wrong, fixed it he calmed down!!!!!!! Weird - I don't think so - Sam is just a smart pony! Up into canter and wow - I had always loved Sam's canter as I thought it was slow and even, how wrong was I! NOW it is a lovely three beat, even, rhythmical and straight!!!!!!! I could trot a straight line and canter a straight line! This is huge!
Jane has done wonders with him in helping him understand leg aids, helping to teach him how to balance himself and how to go forward but not rush! Now Sam certainly didn't look anywhere near as good as when Jane rides him but I was really happy with my lesson. I am going to ride again in the morning and PRACTICE!!!!! I am going to PRACTICE TRUSTING SAM!!!!!!
Sorry about the long post but I had to get it out! A lot of what Jane was saying about my position I knew but it helps having someone pick on you so you have to work at it. Also it really helped feeling the difference in Sam so I won't ignore my position as much now and actually really try to work on it because I can't ask Sam to work if I'm not riding properly!
You know I have been thinking lately about getting a more educated horse and I would semi retire Sam. Why - because my fear and anxiety have been getting really bad lately. Today I feel that I am getting a more educated horse and in the process I will improve, my confidence will improve, my relationship with Sam will improve!!!!! Sounds like an all win situation!!!!!!