Monday, February 2, 2015

Lesson #158: Snort, Sigh, Relax

Hello out there, from underneath all this snow and cold. It's finally stopped and we're in the process of cleaning up this city.

Blargh!! Welcome to winter in Canada.

It is currently -15C in the GTA and likely colder in Hillsburgh/Erin. With windchill, we're looking at closer to -25C or -30C. It wasn't very different yesterday... less snow but just as frigid. And there we go, trekking out bright and early Sunday morning for our weekly lesson. In come the horses with ice hooves that we were lucky to have J grab some sort of hammer to help us save 10-15 minutes of chiselling away at the ice with puny hoof picks.

We enter the indoor arena and it is -10C. Lots of warm up time. My aim this time is to listen enough to Ariel relaxation signs such as loosening of her body, the pace and even snorts and sighing. I am looking for that moment/position that elicits those responses from Ariel that tell me what she's looking for. I add in curves to my warm up and do a few shallow loop serpentine and circles throughout the arena. All the jumps have been put away today so I figured it was going to be a flat lesson. I am told to get Ariel to relax in an extended relaxed trot with a low head carriage; I am holding the rein at the buckle but the trick now is to maintain that head carriage while keeping deep corners and the pace/rhythm.

Next, canter. The canter was such a mess at the get go. I was not collected myself and Ariel was thus not starting up. After recollecting myself in a proper trot, I initiated the canter and things were pretty good! I did ride it in the half seat again just so that I got off her back and got out of her way and she seemed far more relaxed about that and we went round and round but keeping her in the corners on the right rein had its occasional challenges. Not only that, keeping her straight was something I had to focus on maintaining because she was keen on falling into the centre--which probably meant that I need to be more aware of what I'm doing when I lose focus.

The transitions are cleaner than they used to be when we'd go speeding down the long end with me bouncing around trying to get her to pick up the canter. But things have gotten smoother, even though that doesn't mean I know what exactly I'm doing differently.

In an effort to return to the previous goal of keeping straight and relaxed, we are told to get into seated trot without stirrups and keeping pace and ensuring relaxation and looseness. My hips were awful; everything was tight and I was flapping in the seat and Ariel was clearly not enjoying things and started to act up by telling me I was doing things wrong. It took some time but eventually, something came and went and I got a few steps. A few times moving forward from the halt, she would raise her head and back up a step or two when I asked her to move forward. Sheri pointed out that when I ask her to move on, my hips actually lock up and pretty much everything in that 'seat' area gets rigid and for Ariel, that's confusing because I'm telling her to go but not, all at the same time. I need to learn to use my calves to urge her on and not tighten my entire seat. That's going to be tough b/c I haven't quite figured out exactly how to... it's so natural to just tense everything to push her forward because my body just tends to go that way!

Despite that though, the improvement in transitions, snorts and relaxation sighs and having a relaxed trot with a flowing canter was progress enough for me!


  1. it looked like much less of a battle!

    1. it's a never ending battle, with that mare... sometimes i'm down for it but other times, it just isn't something in interested in.

  2. brrr sounds cold!! sounds like a very productive lesson tho -- i really struggle with separating my individual body parts for aids too (like tightening my calf without tightening my seat or back)... building strength over time helps tho!

    1. i'm looking forward to the day things move independently... LOL