(Long post. Reads fast. At least, it does to me. Photo comparisons at end.)
As much fun as Nationals was, camp was even bigger for me. We may have discovered and started to address a significant gap in my riding.
My intention [Plans] was daily lessons for the two weeks before Nationals. That meant eight days, Tuesday through Friday. Barn is closed Sunday and Monday. I stay home with local residents on Saturday. Therefore, eight lessons.
My instructor (she became Coach during the camp/Nationals experience) immediately doubled down with two lessons a day. Well now.
Tweets were composed sitting in my driveway. Exhaustion was a theme. I was deeply interested in not moving at that point.
The crystal are an elastic add-on from ShowQuest. That fact that I have bling on my hat surprises everyone. I don’t know why. I was the one willing to ride into the show ring with a fascinator on my helmet [Dixie Cup].
Instructor decided on long-lining to improve my rein handling. Long-lining forces me to use my hands, as seat and legs are not longer viable options.
After hearing so much – so very, very much – over the years about Not Riding Backwards and Not Riding Off One’s Hands, I developed a First Do No Harm theory. If I never use the reins, then I never make a mistake. Decades of instructors yelled at me to Shorten My Reins, to Take Up a Contact. Never stuck. My hunter/jumper contact was so weak that I had no trouble immediately adjusting to the much lighter saddle seat contact.
This is explains why I get along with horses who go from the seat, such as Previous Horse and Sam. This explains why I get anxious to the point of tears before getting on other horses, such as the rest of the Saddlebreds. Horses that require soft but effective hands have been a mental crap shoot for me. It works. So I am okay once I get moving. I don’t understand why it works. So I freak out on the mounting block.
I need to learn to use all the tools in the toolbox. I have a responsibility to communicate with my hands as well as with my seat.
This is huge.
Now that I am aware of my hands, I have a better understanding of why I disliked driving so much the last time I tried it [Control Issues]. Without fine-tunable communication to the front end, I was pretty much careening around the ring being dragged by the horse. Not pleasant. Now I know why.
Maybe I should try driving again. Maybe in the future even try a show or two. A small show. Alone in the ring. As a schooling exercise only. In the future. For now, we will concentrate on ridden equitation. After Nationals, we can revisit the driving question.
I had just launched into this speech when she-who-talks-me-into-all-manner-of-sh*t says, Why don’t you drive at Nationals?
Say whaaaaat (insert rising bleet)?
Please note, one lesson two years ago, four lessons now, one schooling drive at the show & then into the ring for my first class as the biggest class of the year with four other drivers. That’s a lot of Just Do It.
(Update: accuracy compels me to add the fun show class over the weekend to the list of drives [Show Report].)
Of course, identifying a problem doesn’t mean it goes away overnight. Progress is being made. Compare the visible tension in my first driving lesson back in 2012:
to my last day at the show:
I’m starting to apply this under saddle. I still prefer Sam [post list & photos] to any other horse at Stepping Stone, but everyone – with the possible exception of Mark Todd, who can ride anything – works best with a certain type of horse. Knowing I will have some control over my destiny makes me – somewhat – more comfortable with idea of riding the other horses.
Speaking of Sam, look how much happier he is when my saddle seat improves. Walk-Trot at Mid-South, May 2013 [Show Report]:
Walk-Trot-Canter victory pass, November 2014: