I have just completed 4 regular group lessons. It's been 5 months since I was in regular lessons. I admit that initially I was nervous! Yes, I have had some private lessons over the last couple of months, but for some reason I was a bit shy about riding in front of my two classmates, particularly nervous classmate. I worried about how my performance would be judged by these two riders. Had I improved over the last few months? Could they see how Gem has improved since his boot camp? Am I doing the hard work LA put into Gem's boot camp justice? And, to be honest, I was also a little apprehensive about loping. I hadn't really done any loping for months! Yikes!
I still need to work on his flexibility, but heck I need to work on mine, too! What I really need to work back up is my endurance - after 5 months of no regular lessons, it sucks! :-) Our transitions have been pretty smooth; walk, jog, posting trot, changing diagonal. I know that we are doing well by the look on nervous classmate's face (pinched) and her lack of eye contact with me. :-) LA's encouraging comments have been a bonus. Posting trot over poles last week? No problemo! LA said that Gem and I got a "gold star" for our efforts. Loping?..... It wasn't perfect, but it felt sooooo much better than pre-boot camp!
You know what has been one of the biggest challenges for me? Walking a straight line....and I don't mean after I've had a couple of vodka sodas! :-) Now some of you out there might think that walking a straight line isn't really that difficult. Well, I beg to differ. When you and your trusty steed are moseying along the perimeter of a field, you think you are walking a straight line. In fact, the path in front of you looks straight, so you must be walking straight, right? It isn't until you are in a confined area, picking a letter on the wall to walk towards that you realize that you aren't walking a straight line. You sway, you drift, you sway, you drift a bit more. You want to start nudging the bit a little or use your legs to keep your horse straight.....
LA wants me to walk a straight line with my hands and legs in neutral! This exercise is to build trust and promote communication; Gem has to learn to wait for me to make the decisions. He is not allowed to decide where we are going because that's my job. So, unless I tell him otherwise, he should walk straight ahead until I tell him to stop. I guess this is how cowboys were able to sleep in the saddle while their horses continued moving forward - point and go. :-)
Little drifts are not bad as long as he comes back to "centre" and ends up at the designated spot or letter. A BIG mistake is when he drifts way off course, in affect making the decision on where the two of us are going. When he makes a BIG mistake, I have to correct by turning him in a small circle a couple of times in the opposite direction of where he was going and start again.
It is really hard for me to let him make a BIG mistake. I have a tendency to micro-manage Gem; I fiddle with the reins or my legs to keep him straight. I start to see him drift and I immediately want to correct it by putting my leg on. It takes everything out of me to be in neutral and not correct! It feels like when you are talking to a complete stranger and they have a piece of lint on their sweater and you have this uncontrollable urge to reach out and just pick it off!
We have been practicing and I am happy to report that our straight lines are much, much better. In fact, more often than not, Gem will walk to the designated letter and continue walking until his forehead is touching the wall. :-) During this week's lesson, he was a little bit of a brat. However, when it came to walking or jogging a straight line from one end of the arena to the other, he was great. In fact, it was probably the best example to-date of our straightness. What an easy way to build confidence and promote communication. Next: Incorporating nice sharp neck-reining turns with walking straight lines. :-)
Enjoy your horses and have a great weekend, everybody!