Along For The Ride – Practice Makes Progress

Last Weekend

I had a great lesson last weekend – after a month without any lessons but with more riding, lots of strengthening myself and an attempt at a competition it was seriously needed. It was the first lesson since my operation that my instructor didn’t ride Pea too as I’m now strong enough to actually ride the whole time!  I did it all myself and I was chuffed.  We worked on getting my legs really working to get Pea to come round.  I’ve got to get her to see my leg as more than just ‘go’.  In each of my previous ‘new hip’ lessons I have credited Pea’s way of going to my instructor riding her before I did.  This time I can credit her for telling me what to do, but I was the one actually doing it so it definitely feels like all the practise has been paying off.

Yesterday

Yesterday, I got Pea back into the school after four days of not riding.  Just like in last week’s Along For The Ride, she was really unsettled in the stable beforehand, snorting, circling and completing ignoring her hay (usually unlike her but seemingly a new weekly habit!)  Might have something to do with the new (and very exciting view) from the barn..

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She also had what looked like bites or kicks on her back (one of the downsides of herd life and being near the bottom of the pecking order).  I felt over her back, worried that a saddle would be a bad idea but she didn’t seem to be in any discomfort and there weren’t any bumps, just bent hair!  If I was in any doubt I wouldn’t have ridden her but she wasn’t bothered about me pressing on her back, putting the saddle on or getting on so we cracked on.

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Aim one every time I get into the school is to get Pea going off my leg.  I admit that I spent years being really ineffective with my legs but now I’ve got a whole new leg, I’m adamant those days are over.  It is great to feel her marching on and while old me would have panicked at jogging, now it makes me smile.  Even her reaction to riding past the new stables made me laugh.  Now that’s a different kind of progress!

I tried to recreate what I had done in my lesson last Saturday

– bending into circles each time I picked up the contact

– riding the four points of each circle and putting my legs on at each point rather than nagging my way around!

– thinking of my inside leg pushing her out around each circle

– not letting her rush off when I created energy

It by no means went perfectly, but I worked damn hard!  Ten minutes in, I was stripping off my jumper and trying to roll up the sleeves of my base layer!  Sometimes this happens but I’m achieving nothing, yesterday it happened and I know I was achieving something!  Feeling her coming round and being light in my hand, even only for half a circle at a time is amazing – especially when I can look in the arena mirrors and see that it looks right too!  Of course it was dark but I wish I could have videoed the ride so that I could look back and see what I was doing right to make it go right and what I was doing wrong.

Today

I went for an hour hack today and then when we got back I thought I would see if I could recreate yesterday’s magic moments!  Although Pea and I were both a little tired (and bizarrely, my right knee/leg was really sore) she definitely remembered what she was meant to be doing.  It wasn’t completely consistent but she felt much more connected.  Practice IS making progress!

Investing in lessons and putting what I’m learning into practise is definitely paying off.  So, with plans on the horizon for more training and competitions, I’m hoping that this progress continues and one day in the future the words ‘works over the back and through neck’ and ‘works from behind into a consistent elastic contact’ WON’T be underlined on my dressage sheets and will be considered more than satisfactory!

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