Monday, November 18, 2013

New challenges

This session at pony school we're teaching  Western riding complete with neck reining.  Seeing as I have never actually ridden Western and don't know a thing about it I was pretty worried.  Obviously I've ridden in Western saddles - I even had a lovely one for trail riding at one point.  But I was justified in that fear when I went out on a horse with no knowledge but a Western saddle, Western bridle and reins and all I knew was "hold the reins in one hand instead of two and otherwise it's the same".  So of course it was a train wreck.  I was holding the reins in one hand the same way I would hold dressage reins (only with one hand instead of two), and turning my body in this tiny, barely perceivable movements one does in dressage (which you can get away with because you have this tiny, thin, little slip of leather saddle and the horse can feel every tiny movement and twitch of your muscles).  And I was using dressage leg aids which were going nowhere except to confuse the horse.  I was so frustrated I was ready to quit my job because there's no way I'm going to teach something I can't do myself.

Luckily, the school director offered to give me a lesson before I had to teach my little kids.  I was surprised at how different it is.  Same concepts but quite a different presentation.  For one thing, when you first get on the horse if you've ridden English for years it is very disconcerting to only be able to feel really thick leather under your butt instead of the horse's back.  But after a few minutes of riding I realized that you actually can feel the movement of the horse, just in a different way than I'm used to.  And the leg aids are different.  Instead of using an inside leg on the turn as a pivot point for the horse to bend around and the outside leg being the supporting leg, you are focusing more on the outside leg to support and push the shoulder into the turn and the inside leg is the supporting leg.  And the body turns are much bigger. This "did you actually turn  -  I couldn't see it" stuff doesn't fly in that kind of saddle.  Also, you keep your arm straight and rest your hand on the mane which is also completely different.  It was a big learning curve for my body to do something different but I started to get it by the end and that was really cool.  I need a lot more practice before I try riding like that without the school director there to instruct me but it's really fun to learn something new. 

Maiden has a new lease on life now that she has shoes on her front feet.  It used to be really hard to get her moving on the lunge line or get her to do an energetic transition to a trot under saddle but now the minute she gets out in the arena she's all excited and as soon as I send her out on the circle she takes off at a fast trot and I have to let her trot it out for a few minutes before I'd even think of getting a walk out of her.  She's also not so pissy about doing the lateral work and working on bending a little to loosen and strengthen her topline muscles.  I'm actually a bit surprised how much her front feet and the soreness were bothering her.  I knew they were sore but I'm really seeing the extent of it now.  So, I'm happy for that.  And massage has really helped to loosen up her loin area.  It's still far too tight and her illiopsoas and TFL are still like hard, concrete bands (which is impeding her ability to really use impulsion from her hind end) but they are better than they were a month ago before I started really working on them once a week.

BuddyCat is amazingly still alive and continues to forge ahead toward his 19th birthday coming up in February.  Last week he was not eating and was very weak for two days and we were sure he would need to be put down, but we held off because he was social and purring when we were near him.  He bounced back a little (again) and is eating again, but he's still weaker than he has been.  But he's happy.  He's also totally skin and bones but there's not much we can do at this point for that.  He can eat one kind of food and that's it, all others send his stomach off into a very bad place which would kill him faster than being so skinny.  We're just keeping an eye on him and the minute he seems unhappy and is not eating we're going to put him down so he doesn't suffer.  But he's awfully tough and he's still enjoying life.

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