Since today was a dressage lesson, I wasn’t too hopeful about being put on Murphy. However, luckily enough the group before (where he’s often ridden when he isn’t in our group) mine had a theory lesson. So, Murphy it was for me again. Or, “the spotted one”, as my instructor occasionally refers to him. Or maybe “splotchy” is a better translation in this case, as he doesn’t have the pretties of patterns. But I love him still.
Except, of course, when he tries to take my head off with his teeth. Apparently, Harry is back to being the top dog .... err, top horse, and so Murphy is grumpy again. Currying and tacking him up was once again a risky business today, although I managed to escape unscathed. Down in the arena, however, he managed to tear my glove while I was fixing something with the reins. Luckily, he just got the glove and none of my skin. And then, of course, when it was time to mount up he tried his new-found trick (he’s clearly been doing too many beginner’s classes) of stepping one stride back as soon as you get on the mounting block. But a firm talking sorted him out pretty quickly.
The lesson itself was focused on turns and curving paths, and after some initial disagreement about the necessity of walking straight ahead with all four legs when on a straight path, we managed to do pretty well. With only four other horses in the arena, his re-awakened grumpiness didn’t affect his performance too much, as he rarely got too close to any of the others. Still, I wasn’t entirely happy with his suppleness until after we had moved from walking to trotting and then back to walking. Then he finally started to yield to my inside leg and curve around it, instead of pressing against it. He also relaxed quite a bit in general, striving forward and down, and his ears even flopped to the sides a bit in that relaxed-yet-attentive fashion.
And then my instructor started working on me instead, and she hit on something interesting. She noticed that whenever she asks me to straighten up, I get lighter in the saddle. Essentially, I end up striving upwards too much, and that probably causes quite a bit of the tension I always feel when I try to get into the proper position. So, she asked me to first straighten up, and then to lower my center of gravity again, to get my weight back down in the saddle. Once I started doing it that way, first straightening and then sinking back down while still keeping a good posture, it really felt much better. And Murphy’s balance and cadence improved, too. In the end, my instructor was very pleased, and noted that I seem to be doing better and better with him each time.
Of course, I couldn’t keep myself from pointing out that riding him really helps me improve my seat, as I am both relaxed and confident enough to concentrate on those kinds of things when I am on Murphy. Hopefully, she’ll be able to put him on me lots more this semester.