Back to an old favourite today, a lesson blog. Writing something every time I ride became a chore even before I bought Barka (yes, that happened while blog was on hiatus, in early 2019), but it is still a good idea to occasionally write down my thoughts after a lesson. 2021 has started both well and not so well in terms of my riding. On the plus side is a happy, healthy horse (fingers crossed and all that) and the fact that I’ve had a chance to ride for Sten Åstedt every 14 days. Normally, I get a lesson for him once a month but twice now I have filled in for other regulars. Today was one such instance, we’ve had a mass of snow over night and those who needed to transport their horses to the arena couldn’t make it.
Less good is that I have been plagued by nerves. The cold weather is beautiful and lovely, but it can make the horses just a little frisky. To be honest, Barka is just a little more forward than usual and a little more alert, but when something gets on my mind, it stays there. I’ve found riding in the arena particularly difficult and that’s a bit curious because it used to be I felt much safer there than in the outdoor paddock. But what I have realised is that my fears have changed over the years. With Barka, I am much less worried about losing control over her (that was always my big fear before), but I am still worried about things happening that might scare her. Outside, I can keep an eye on my surroundings. Inside the arena, I never know when there will be a sudden sound outside the door. So its about control, but control of the environment around me rather than the horse.
Unfortunately, as Sten pointed out today, if I am focusing on everything around me and Barka, I am not in the bubble.
We started off, as usual, by him asking me what I took out of the last lesson. I thought I had absorbed it pretty well, but once I started riding it turned out I wasn’t quite there yet as I continued to make the same mistake on the circles as before. I could tell Sten was a bit disappointed, but we went back to me riding with the reins in just the inner hand and the circles started shaping up again. I was also having some issues with ending up ahead of her movement and overusing my legs. Both those things make for a very surly Barka, so I know when I am doing it, but I can’t always sort it out on my own. Especially not if the cause is that I am feeling tense.
Fortunately, Sten is very good at knowing how much to push and how to do it. And when I trust that the instructor knows how much is safe to push both me and the horse, I gradually relax. Because I had been making her balk by squeezing with my legs and then pushing with my seat, he wanted to get her back out in front of me. That meant asking her to trot quite briskly until she was sustaining the trot on her own and I could let myself become more passive, following her movement rather than trying to force it. I don’t think I have ever done such small circles at quite such a brisk trot before. Not to mention the serpentines that we finished with. I was doing them with my reins bridged, to keep my hands together and to avoid overusing the outer rein, and it created a completely different flow in the turns.
Of course, even when Sten says it is good and it feels much better than usual, I still wonder what I am doing when I look at the bits that Elio filmed today. I suppose it could have been (had has been!) worse, though. ;) And not just in terms of how I looked, I almost managed to ride over Sten!