I rode my friend’s Halflinger on Thursday in a beautifully groomed covered arena the size of … well, probably a rodeo arena, but I’m not exactly sure because I’m not familiar with the various sizes that arenas come in. Certainly long enough to challenge my ability to keep a horse in a straight line when not on the rail.
I rode with a bareback pad, rope halter, and clip-on reins. The other person in the arena had a paint horse with saddle, breastplate, bit, bridle, and spurs, and I wanted to give them a lot of room. Her horse was “up” and they needed room to circle without having to worry about where I was. And I didn’t want to be on the inside track just when he needed to teleport sideways.
Kresege has a swinging, fast walk, and reminds me a lot of River in her horsenality: cusp LBI/LBE. She started out draggy on-line so I asked less and less of her on the ground until I got ears and interest, and then asked for more. I climbed on and she stood patiently, but when I asked for go, boy did she give me go! She’s recovering from a shoulder injury so she is only supposed to walk; we caught up with the paint a few times. True, we were two horse lengths on the inside, but still!
I felt good, swinging, relaxed, and became more confident as the ride went on, not less. Kresege also settled after about five minutes. I played a game with myself where I found a point that was higher than my shoulders and didn’t look at anything but that point — not with my eyes, my shoulders, my elbows, my hips, or my knees. Kresege is less wiggly than Rocky and even so she taught me a lot about just how much energy and concentration it takes to maintain focus.
I kept track of the other horse and rider at all times, with peripheral senses, and made sure to mix it up for Kresege. Serpentines across the width and then the length, track 2 or track 3 or track 4, and when the other girl stopped in the middle to text, track 1. Focus on the destination, relax in the body except when needing steady rein or we started drifting inward.
My lower back started to ache after only 11 minutes so I stopped. I didn’t want to push it through my own weakness and cause Kresege to develop a sore back. We sat for a while and then I practiced the emergency dismount to the right. The first attempt, I didn’t even get my feet above her rump, but after that I did a good one.
Barbara said we looked good together — yay! — and it was so cool to feel so confident and sure compared to how I’ve been in the past. My recent short rides with Rocky, which have been on hold due to weather and business travel, have paid off. Keep it short, stop when we’re still having fun, and build the muscles and flexibility gradually.
It is interesting to have the knowledge and the ability now, about straightness, and also about providing steadiness and certainty for the horse. I’m going to keep practicing these things with Rocky this week now that I’m back on the ranch.