I had a great lesson yesterday!! It only took me 2 hours with traffic to get there, which was really great for afternoon commuting traffic. When I arrived I saw R hobbling around, he just had back surgery done and won’t be riding or training for at least a month. P cut me off before I could go park my car, so I rolled down the window. I knew something was up but I wasn’t sure what, because she always waits until after I’ve parked and changed clothes to exchange pleasantries. Once R was out of ear shot she told me I was going to be helping her breed a mare but not until R went inside because she didn’t want him to know about it and get stressed out.
Hans is a big ass stallion, and the mare was big too. I understand the dangers involved in breeding, so I guess I kind of get why R would get worked up about petite P and I (a whopping 5’3”) tackling this job alone. Not that it was a big deal. Hans is a gentleman and the mare was very quiet. The whole thing was drama free. It did kind of feel like we were a couple of kids hiding behind the football bleachers to smoke a joint after school though. Lol
After that was done we saddled up Aria and I lunged her to get her hormones under control because she’s in full blown Season. With a capital ‘S’. She’s got some incredible stretching at the walk and trot. Once I finesse my cue for the stretch and get her to reliably hold it with contact it’s going to get some nice scores in the show ring. I’m really proud of her because I know the stretch can be tough.
P hopped up and put Aria through her paces. We always start the lesson with P riding because Aria doesn’t always start her lesson off willing and sweet and we want to promote positive experiences. She did really well though. It didn’t take long for Aria to ease into work mode. It’s been really fun to watch her improve over the last month. Obviously when R was riding her she was performing at her top level but knowing that he would be having surgery P took over his workload and the baby horses have had to learn how to respond to a new rider. It took a while for Aria and P to click together but the warmups that I see now versus a month ago are night and day.
I’m hoping next week Aria is at a spot where I can start riding her right away during lessons. I think we’re headed in that direction. We worked really well together yesterday. I was able to keep her on the contact better and we worked in a frame a lot more than we have previously. We worked a lot on our geometry and by worked on I mean we made shapes. None of which I would classify as a circle even though I was trying. Trying and doing. Not the same thing.
Towards the end of the lesson we were getting an oval and it was a consistent oval, which I guess is better than no oval. Then when I least expect it, because when I’m riding well I go into a zen mode where you can give me instruction and I simply do it without thinking about it, P cued me to pick up the canter. I’ve never cantered on Aria before. I started to give the cue with no hesitation and then I guess I realized what she asked me to do because I tensed up and my form unraveled.
I don’t know why. I feel like there’s a disconnect in my brain. My logical side knows I’ll be 100% okay because P knows my abilities and Aria is a good baby horse but my emotional side immediately goes into DEFCON 1. It’s really frustrating. P coached me through 3 more attempts but I couldn’t seem to get it together and Aria was unsure about picking up speed because she could feel how tense I was. Then P said we would canter on the lunge line.
I feel like those moments when you’re given the option to take the easy route are suicide for self-improvement. I didn’t want to canter on the lunge line. I wanted to get my shit together and canter on my horse. That’s why I’m taking lessons. I told P I wanted one more chance. I know it’s counterproductive to ask a baby horse to do something continuously and not have it go well. I kept that in the forefront of my mind as motivation. I needed to nail this cue and I needed it to go well.
It wasn’t pretty but on the final try I did get a canter and I cantered for 3 horrifying laps. Haha. I say horrifying because it turns out Aria is a wiggleworm. She does not keep a steady pace or hold herself in any way. Keeping her on track is 100% the rider’s job. She would dive in and then straighten out and then dive in and then try to track right when we were going left. Sometimes I would get a solid curve through the corner and sometimes it would be a sudden 90 degree turn. My seat was everywhere. My hands where everywhere. My leg cues were not refined enough or quick enough to support her like P or R. Totally terrifying.
I was smiling, more than likely from embarrassment, after we stopped. Aria’s choice. Probably because her baby brain couldn’t deal with my flailing anymore. I felt really silly and really proud at the same time. My heartrate was way up but at least I accomplished this one tiny, but huge to me, task. Then we changed directions and I asked for the canter again. It was a lot nicer this time around. I knew what to expect. My emotional side didn’t think I was going to totally die and we ended the lesson on that note.
I may never feel comfortable at the canter but I’m always going to push myself to live in that uncomfortable space anyway. I do hope one day I have enough good experiences at the canter that the bad ones are diluted into near non-existence. I couldn’t have hoped for a better ride to ruminate over before I take a week off to recover from LASIK surgery. It will be the last time I push my glasses up my nose so I can see where I’m going and maybe not worrying about visibility will improve my confidence. That or I could develop mutant powers. I’d take either.