Hippoi Athanatoi

Back to February

The summary of February’s lessons ought to have been done a while ago, but we have had (and continues to have) a wealth of Game of Thrones news to tackle which have distracted me rather completely. I am also finding myself preoccupied with reflecting on my writing, not just for these lesson reports but in general. I feel like it has stagnated, in part because I read less than I used to and in part because I am finding that it always comes out so…superficial. Why? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know my academic writing suffers from my lack of confidence, and it probably plays a part in other kinds of writing too.

But, that’s enough meandering thoughts for now. Last month started off with a dressage lesson on Shanti, the very well-trained not-quite-pony. Since I had mentioned my back issues in a previous post, Ulrika suggested some improvements to my seat that might help. In particular, she felt I wasn’t using my seat bones as well as I could. Certainly, making those changes made for a much better lesson on Shanti than my first and my back felt fine afterwards.

The week after that I was back on Nelson. I tried to find the same sort of seat on him, but I could soon tell that part of the reason my back has been worse since I started riding Nelson is his saddle. Its quite short and deep, making it difficult for me to sit well in it. However, after a rocky start where it felt as if I had two horses instead of one due to the complete lack of connection between front and back, the leg yields we were doing suddenly got through to Nelson. He found his balance and gave me a wonderful trot. Afterwards, I asked Ulrika about the suddenness of that change, and she felt it isn’t uncommon with horses like Nelson who are very heavy on the forehand. Once they do find a better balance and softer and more flexible, it can go from bad to good very quickly.

After that followed a jumping lesson which also included some interesting revelations. As we were warming up, Ulrika told me to shorten my reins quite a bit, saying that because Nelson has such a short neck I could keep them much shorter than what feels right to start with to get my elbows in the right position. It made an amazing difference to the control I had over Nelson. Suddenly I was in just the right position to smoothly control tempo and turns, plus it improved my balance and the way I followed along with his jumps. I could more or less hold onto his ears and be fine, it seems, and clearly I have been jumping him on too much of a “dressage length” rein.

The month finished off with a very tough lesson from a substitute teacher. I was on Nelson again and he was incredibly frisky. We did do some leg yields that helped me get him a bit more under control, but he spent most of the lesson trying to run faster and faster. The pace of the lesson didn’t give me much time to consider what to do and all the trotting just wound him up more and more. The end result was mostly very sore arms.

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