However, barns being the way they are, there were a number of people who were more than happy to tell me how well Gem was doing.....or not. :-) I heard how Gem was awesome on one day when LA took him on a trail ride with the day campers. Then I heard how he gave LA the business on the next trail ride because of mud (yes we had some rain, thank goodness!!). He became reacquainted with neck reining fairly quickly and was even doing some slow spins.....could LA being getting him ready for a reining career?? Apparently, Gem regularly showed LA where they should be going instead of where LA wanted to go. Then there was the time that LA was trying to convince Gem that he needed to lope on the correct lead and Gem resisted....to the point that he started to buck and almost unseated LA. Whoops.
Gem's boot camp was completed last Thursday. I contacted LA at the beginning of last week to ask if I could get on him this past weekend. Her response: "Let's start with a lesson on Friday and go from there." I was nervous and excited. He was great tacking up, very relaxed. The first part of our "lesson" was LA riding Gem. He stood calmly at the mounting block, waited for her to mount and waited for her to tell him to move off. What?!! Who is this horse and what have you done with mine?!!
She explained her training process while she worked him. She walked Gem in squares, her legs in neutral, using a loose rein to steer. If she didn't ask him to turn, he would just walk right to the wall, stop and then wait for her to tell him where to go. What the heck?! She asked him to jog and once he started her legs went back to neutral and he was expected to keep jogging until she said otherwise. And, he did. After jogging, came loping. LA loped him in large and small circles without using the reins (she rode with no hands). I am sure my mouth was hanging open to my chest. He looked beautiful, really light on his feet. I am not going to say that he didn't resist on occasion, but LA got in his face immediately and convinced him otherwise.
Now it was my turn. Gulp. LA explained that the lessons I have had in the past have built a foundation. Now we are going to build on that by learning how to ride effectively and efficiently. LA shortened the stirrups a little more than how I usually have them. Gem stood while I mounted and waited for me to tell him to move off. It felt really good to be on my beautiful boy. LA showed me how to hold the reins with one hand and off we went.
I had to remind myself not to keep my legs "on"! It was hard...I think it became habit due to my initial of lack of confidence and then out of my perceived necessity to keep Gem moving....my legs are like steel traps! :-) I was on a loose rein and I managed to steer OK. It will take some practice to keep my hand low. We walked, we jogged and then it was time to lope. Heels down, butt in the saddle, loose rein, neutral legs, looking where I had to go. I did it! It was amazing. Small circles, large circles. It was easy and light; no pulling or yanking. My hands were so much softer than they usually are because of the loose rein. And, after loping a few circles, I wasn't exhausted! I rode him for about 15 minutes. DH's Mom had come to watch and yelled her congratulations. :-)
I had another lesson with LA on Monday and I found that exhausting. The heat was not very kind; my face was as red as a lobster, I had sweat stinging my eyes, causing odd winking and blinking, and my hair seeped out of the sides of my helmet looking like tuffs of brillo pad. I looked crazed! And, on top of not looking my best, I had to actually learn stuff!! Geez! :-)
Keep your hand in the center!
Keep you hand down!
Turn him to the right!...no, the other right!
Look where you are going!
Don't move your hand out further than your hip!
Neck reining really brought home how much I depend on two reins/hands for security and balance! And, not using my legs as steel trap feels really weird. But, the result of this approach has really changed Gem. He seemed calmer and more attentive. However, LA is adamant that I can't let him get away with anything. She says he way too smart and if I let one thing slip, he will take that as an invitation. :-) A fellow blogger over at Living The Dream also has a Canadian and had an interesting post about just that.
Having Gem do 30 days of training with LA has been very positive. I think he actually liked having the challenge. We have left it where I will have another couple of private lessons with LA. If he needs the odd tweaking, then she will ride him.
So I have my homework cut out for me. LA wants me to practice, practice, practice:
- putting my legs back in neutral once I finish "asking"
- neck reining on a loose rein
- I am not to use any verbal cues
- walking in rectangles
- I am to keep my hands soft and not yank or pull - I have to think of carrying egg yolks in my hand
- if he doesn't respond to a cue or tries to make decisions for me, I am either to turn him in a circle or back him up assertively, depending on what I am correcting
- keeping my eyes up and looking where I want to be instead of looking at Gem's beautiful mane!!! :-)