All of my usual classmates were away this week, so LA combined a make-up lesson with mine. The other 3 riders are much more experienced than I, as they have all competed in some level of reining or games. There were two adults and one of the Young Ladies. It was a nice change. The atmosphere was a little different, perhaps a little more serious.....no, more focused. I was not intimidated by my classmates; I know all of them quite well and have adult beverages with one of them quite regularly after riding.
My lesson was....well... awesome! We had a few moments where Gem was resisting my leg cues a bit and bending in rather than out as we went around the arena, but other than that he was pretty attentive and consistent. He did have a big trip once when we were warming up - yes, sometimes he forgets what he's doing or how big his feet are. :-) After our usual warm up, we managed to get a good posting trot going and for very, very brief periods of time, he actually extended his legs a bit! :-)
LA changed the routine up a bit. Instead of loping towards the end of the lesson, she decided to get the loping in at the beginning, right after the walk/trot warm up. We each took a turn loping large. I was second up and for some strange reason, I was not apprehensive. I calmly positioned myself on Gem, inside leg on girth and outside leg slightly back from girth and squeezed. He loped from stand still, on the correct lead! Everyone yelled Yay!! We actually transitioned from a stand still to a lope not once, not twice but three times! LA applauded me - twice! There was one occasion where I was on the wrong lead - sit, sit, squeeze - and we continued on the correct one. As I was standing next to the young lady waiting for my next turn, she said "Wow, you are doing really well!" I am sure my face was beaming.
Because I was loping so consistently, LA instructed all us to lope around at the same time. Lope with everyone?....at the same time??!! What??!! I didn't even blink an eye!! We gave each other plenty of room and off we went. Gem's stride is much bigger than his quarter horse classmates, so I would catch up to the person in front of me quite quickly. Sometimes I would cut across the arena and find a new spot or sometimes I would trot off the rail and then jump in again.
I wasn't my usual nervous nelly self last night when it came to loping. I believe my hands were "quieter" and I wasn't doing my usual impersonation of a bird flapping its wings (not be be confused with Killing the Birds). When Gem was rounding the corners, I could tell I was more balanced and had more control of my legs and feet. LA did point out that I was still tending to lean forward, causing my butt to lift up. I need to practice "sitting on my pockets".
After loping, LA set up some poles and we did circles around them first at a walk and then at a trot. Gem's flexibility has really improved thanks to LA riding him once a week and I was quite impressed at how close he was to the pole when he was bending at a walk. Trotting around the poles still needs work. :-)
It was such a relaxed, yet productive, session last night. Do you think that Gem picked up on the other horses' level of training?? After all, they weren't the usual school horses. Do you think that he felt their competitiveness and that pushed him to perform better? Perhaps Gem was feeling spunky because my riding ensemble matched his saddle blanket. ;-) I don't know what the heck was going on last night, but I felt great! I am starting to have a better idea of what Gem is capable of and I caught a little glimpse last night of how our future could be..... I am excited!!!!
One big difference comparing last night's lesson to my usual - it was quieter. My usual classmates and I tend to get chatty, particularly while we are waiting our turn. Last night, except for LA's instructions and cheers of encouragement, there wasn't much chatting going on. So perhaps the biggest lesson learned last night for me was to keep my head in the horse space; watch what's being presented in front of you and not what's being talked about beside you. Focus on what's being taught....now, there's a novel idea! ;-)
What was I thinking....?