Hippoi Athanatoi

Serpentines, Shoes and Shopping

The improvement in my mood from last week’s riding lesson started to wear off around Sunday, leaving me pretty badly off on Monday and early today. I could definitely use another riding lesson each week, to keep that from happening, but right now that just isn’t doable. Perhaps next semester, though. And hopefully the positive effects from this week’s lesson might last a little longer, as I got to ride Murphy again and did reasonably well too. There’s also the horse show to look forward for this weekend.

Since Murphy still had some food left, grooming and tacking him up was a pretty calm affair today. Hay takes precedence over trying to take a bite out of me. I imagine that hay tastes rather better than human to a horse. I was pleased to see that the wooly funnel for his girth had helped the rubbed patches on his stomach regrow some hair, and he didn’t mind me touching them as he did two weeks ago. Then again, it could have been due to the lack of hay two weeks ago contra the presence of hay today. Food is definitely a priority for him.

Once down in the arena, he behaved quite well there too (he must be happy with his status in the herd at the moment), though he did decide that backing up was a good idea when I had stepped onto the mounting block. Sneaky little bastard. He doesn’t move a muscle until I step onto the block, but as soon as I am unable to move with him, he moves backwards. And then he looks very, very innocent when you smack his rump and tell him to move forward again.  He also tried to take a bite out of someone passing by him as I had mounted up and was checking the girth. Such a sweet horse.

The lesson itself was the same exercise as a few weeks ago; three serpentines down the length of the arena, with trot through all of the curved sections and walk 3 meters before and 3 meters after the centre line. I was determined to be a bit more determined from the get go, so I started asking for more work out of Murphy pretty immediately. Still, bending and transitions, at least from walk to trot, are pretty hard for him, so it took a fair while to get him to actually follow the curved paths instead of staying straight and angling through them. His transitions from trot to walk, however, are much easier to work with, and half-halts while trotting have a pretty good effect on him.

There were fewer of us today than last time, but I still felt like I managed to slip under the instructor’s radar most of the lesson, which felt a bit frustrating as I did have quite a few problems that I was trying to work on on my own. Mostly I am just not happy with how my body is feeling at the moment. It could, I suppose, be due to my lower back pain, which has gotten a lot worse lately, but I am just feeling very awkward and uncontrolled. I tried, inspired by dancinghorse’s posts, to work on keeping my hands high and carried, as I do have a tendency to push down with my hands. It felt pretty good when I managed to get and hold the right position, but I had a hard time maintaining it when I had to work hard at steering Murphy along the right path.

The real break-through came, I felt, after we added in some canter through the last bend of the serpentines. Murphy’s canter is pretty bad in itself, but it does help encourage him to get some more movement through his whole body and it also energizes him (without charging him up too much, as the case is with Sammy). I think it would do him well to just canter a lap or two pretty early on, just to loosen him up and get him to use his back more. Anyway, once we had cantered once or twice, I felt much more movement through his back and he was also much more limber and much easier to place along the correct path, with a proper bend to his body and a suitable flexion of his neck. So, we did get some noticeable improvement.

The canter itself was, as usual, pretty bad, though I did manage to stay quite still through most of it. Of course, my instructor did catch one of my other canter problems: I have a tendency to pull up my inner leg when giving canter aids. And as soon as I tried to keep my leg down, my upper body started moving again. In short, lots more work needed on my canter still. Though, the pulling up of my legs and the general unsteadiness of my legs today was probably partly due to the fact that I had shifted from boots to jodhpurs. I ride mostly in jodhpurs during spring and summer,  and the change-over does take some adjusting to every year. I think I probably have to invest in a pair of good leather leggings sooner than later, though, especially since it looks like my boots are pretty much worn out.

With the horse show coming up this weekend, this means I will be terribly tempted to go on a massive shopping spree on the adjacent horse fair. This could be very bad for the bank account.

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