When I got to the stables this week, I found a new horse in Malupin’s stall (he’s injured again, so he’s resting in one of the shiny new stalls in the newly built addition to the stables); a gorgeous Fjord-horse mix called Prins. A touch on the small size (around 140 cm, I think), though he may be sturdy enough to carry my weight-group, and if so I really hope I get to try him. Today, however, I was back on Murphy, so I was pretty happy with that. ;) I was a little less happy about the fact that we’re now a full group (i.e, 10 people), plus we had one extra rider today by mistake. Better, though, than this group being cancelled, but I really do hope it thins out a little bit in the next year. Down to 7 or so would be nice.
While tacking him up, Murphy surprised me by being very calm. He stood around with his ears mostly forward almost all the time, even when I saddled him. I found a bit of chafing by the girth on one side, and alerted the instructor, who decided she’d put a sheepskin funnel on the girth later on. We then went down to the arena, which was full of strange horses (there’s now a lesson for riders with privately owned horses just before our class), and Murphy turned out to be very interested in the unfamiliar faces. Not aggressive at all, oddly enough, but his ears were pricked forward and he looked very curious. He’s incredibly alert and aware of his surroundings, without being the least spook-prone. Wouldn’t survive 10 seconds in the wild though.
The exercise for today, which I think was partly inspired by the arena being pretty crowded with 11 horses in there, was serpentines. We’d start at C (or A, depending on whether we were on the left or right rein) and do three curves divided across the length of the arena, and then we’d join up with the main track again at the other end. Initially, Murphy was pretty stiff and not particularly engaged from behind, and was (again) having trouble with my body. I couldn’t get my stirrups to feel equally long, and it felt as if my control over my arms and legs was shaky today as well. As a result, I concentrated a lot on my seat, and once again my instructor ended up nudging me to get more effective.
This time, however, I tried to get myself started as soon as she told me, and the result was a little better than last week. For one thing, Murphy was feeling pretty laid-back, almost lazy (I kind of worried he was sick, since he’d also been so calm when being tacked up, but he seemed pretty happy), so I wasn’t tricked into just sitting there and thinking it was good as I had done with Sammy. Still, it took a while to actually wake him up, and he kept losing his concentration as the serpentine path meant he’d come very close to the other horses at some points along the serpentines, and then he’d inevitably try to kill them. ;P Especially the two newest additions, Ikaros and Prins.
After a while, though, I managed to get him moving pretty well. Lots of transitions together with lots of bending and neck-flexion is just what he needs to become both forward-moving and supple, and I was particularly pleased with his walk since I did manage to get him to both bend and flex quite nicely and it also felt as if he used his hindlegs fairly well. The trot didn’t come out quite as well, though, as I couldn’t control my body precisely enough to get him to curve around my inner leg while trotting. The transitions to and from trot, on the other hand, were pretty good, in particular the ones from trot to walk as I kept my upper body still and kept him moving forward into and through the transition.
I did fall back into bad old habits a bit when we started cantering, as the ‘more effective’ riding translated into an over-active upper body when he wouldn’t canter right off. After one reminder, however, I was able to pull myself together and he would canter with fairly small signals. While on the left rein, he got the correct leading leg pretty much every time, though once we switched over to the right rein it got worse. By that time, he’d gotten pretty geared up, so he’d try to start cantering too early in the serpentine, and this would inevitably lead to the wrong leading leg. I caught him early once, and got him back down to trot, but the next time he did it I wasn’t fast enough and he tried to take the turn on the wrong leading leg. That, combined with my attempt to actually bring him down to a trot, lead to him hitting himself on his right front-hoof with his right back-hoof. He stumbled once or twice afterwards, but when I asked my instructor about it, she thought he was moving cleanly. He does have a habit of not always picking his feet up from the ground properly. Apparently not uncommon for Irish horses. Still, I worried a little about him.
After the cantering, the idea was to do some rising trot and getting the horse to move forward and down, lengthening their topline. By now, however, Murphy was really feeling frisky, and the best I could manage was to try to collect his trot, which he responded quite nicely to for a bit. The final stretch of walk, however, was very good, with a supple, gymnasticised horse, and I didn’t feel any oddness in his walk then. Still, I checked his feet after the ride (didn’t find anything amiss), and once we were all back at the stables (I had to wait there quite a while for the instructor to finished up down at the arena, as we were now the last class for the evening) I reminded her to check his feet and to get that sheepskin for his girth. She had some other stuff to do as well, so I really hope she’ll remember to fix those things, so he doesn’t come up lame or his chafing gets worse. With Malupin injured, Murphy better not develop any problems at all.
Next week, alas, there’s no riding. Theory time, plus I won’t be able to make it anyway (no car available). Rather annoying now that I am feeling unhappy about some aspects of my riding, but maybe it will give me some time to process things mentally. I think I am in a bit of a transition period, trying to learn how to combine more of a focus on my seat with effective—but controlled—riding.