Hippoi Athanatoi

Frosty Toes & More Turns

March 7th, and still winter, with piles of lovely white snow ... and wickedly cold evenings. I guess that’s what I get for wishing for a real winter for years. ;) And to be honest, I don’t mind it most of the time, just for when I go riding. I don’t want to pack on too much clothing (though the Mountain Horse jacket I bought last year is fabulous, so I do pretty well with that and two thin layers underneath), and its particularly tricky to keep hands and feet warm. Particularly when you don’t have much in the way of blood circulation. ;P

However, I really shouldn’t complain. After all, I got Murphy again! At first, she thought she had put me on Gamir, but then realized it was supposed to be Murphy. I told her I really didn’t mind, even if Gamir is a very lovely horse too. ;) As it happens, I ended up getting both Murphy and Gamir ready, because the woman who was given Gamir is a bit scared of him in the stables. No wonder, really, as he’s surprisingly acrobatic when he kicks, which he does for much of the time when being brushed and saddled. So, I got to deal with two slightly grumpy horses, but I really feel so much more confident on the ground these days, and I think they noticed it because both of them behaved quite well. Murphy is still not happy to move his right shoulder away from me, and just has to put on his best threat-face whenever I insist, but he does end up doing what he’s told.

The exercise for today was focused on, as it has been these last weeks, working towards a proper turn on the haunches. We started out riding the diamond-shaped patterns we’ve done before, with a turn at each corner. On the right rein, Murphy turned quite easily, but he did so with his right shoulder first instead of his left shoulder, so he ended up ‘falling’ inwards and pushing against my right leg instead of moving away from it. On the left rein, he was much harder to turn, and kept pushing his right shoulder out and bending a little too much in the body. We were actually supposed to do these exercise with a straight horse to start with, but after we had done them for a while, I pointed out my issue with him when going to the right, and the instructor suggest I ask for some flexion of his neck and bend him a little to get him to respect my right leg. This helped, but by that time we had also started trotting, and he was a bit more supple anyway.

After riding the diamond-shapes for a while, we moved on to the main exercise, which consisted of turning in towards the centre line from the long side of the arena, and executing a turn on the haunches between two pylons that limited how wide we were allowed to make the turn. We did this at the walk, but we were supposed to trot along the short sides and the other long side, to keep the horses thinking forward. This time, we ended up starting on the left rein, and as a result Murphy turned quite well. My instructor wasn’t quite happy with my first walk-to-trot transition, though, as she wanted me to wait for him a little longer so that he’d end up starting with his hindquarters and moving into my hand. The next few times, however, he did it quite well and the resulting trot was very nice. Then he started getting a little bit too eager, and ended up putting his head up a bit much instead of engaging from behand. It felt like he was a bit unhappy with the fitting of his Thiedeman reins, but maybe he was just a bit friskier than usual on account of the weather (and, no doubt, they haven’t been able to be outdoors so much of late either) and felt more constrained than usual by them.

On the right rein, he ended up being quite a bit more difficult to turn. More so than I had expected, in fact, and it took me a while to get the hang of it. My instructor did comment, however, that my seat is continuing to improve, and that I was able to keep it nicely centred even as he was being difficult to turn. In those situations, I often have a tendency to lean one way or the other to help the horse along, so thinking about my seat all the time is definitely helping me control it. Now I just need to get to the stage where I can think about my seat and more effective riding at the same time. I could certainly have been a bit more effective today, to get Murphy working more with his hindquarters, but I guess I can’t expect everything to fall into place at once.

Oh, and we have a new horse in the stables. Another large one, alas, and with a bit of an ominous name: Ikaros. But hey, at least he’s not an airplane. ;)

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