In my Quest to increase Rocky’s physical fitness (along with my own), I leaped gleefully out of bed into my boots, and frolicked outside to invite Rocky to come play. We warmed up at liberty at the walk, trot, AND canter (and boy was I out of breath, yikes!) and Rocky even chose to go over the jump a couple of times.
Calm, connected, responsive?
He had finished his personal breakfast bucket (beet pulp, grass hay pellets, joint and hoof suppies, Platinum), but second breakfast was being delivered to all of the pens and I promised that I’d have him home by Elevenses.
Keeping in mind that if he doesn’t want to be ridden, then I don’t want to ride, I cleaned his feet and brushed him and saddled up at liberty. He strayed a step or two when I asked for his right hind, but he usually does if I forget to wait a moment between the first and second hind foot. It’s like he needs to rebalance, or stretch, or something, after I do the first hind foot (whichever one it is). The farrier was out yesterday and said that Rocky’s feet are perfect, so, that’s a triumph.
We started out walking a pattern of my own devising that included 4 right turns then 4 left turns then 4 right turns then 4 left turns — a square figure 8.
While we’re not all the way back to where we were 25 days ago, we were definitely less wiggly than we’ve been, and despite my inability to get my stirrup leathers the same length no matter what holes I use (grrrr), I felt pretty comfortable. On my next ride I’m going to try to stop thinking about all the rider biomechanics stuff and just move my body around in search of a sweet spot.
But today, I thought about keep my Os in a row — the rim of my helmet stacked over the circumference of my shoulders stacked over the band of my bra stacked over the circumference of my hips. And my tailbone heavier than my pubic bone. And Erin’s reminder to Lift for Lightness. Lift from my chest, lift when I use the reins, lift my hip when I ask for a turn….
It’s a lot to think about and do at the same time, and I added in some trot segments so that Rocky would have something to think about too.
When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine…you know you are loved. — John Lyons
We are also improving in our ability to get out the gate. He really has the idea of sidling up to it and balancing himself while I lean down to flip the locking thingie, and then of swinging his hindquarters away so I can open it. We are less smooth at closing it, but I’d say today we managed it in less than 5 minutes, which is a big improvement over the 20 it took us the first time.
My priority in riding around the ranch was keeping Rocky focused on what we were doing. Even though Jan was delivering hay. Even though the pigs were rootling through their roughage. Even though someone has draped a white t-shirt across the back of one of the hay wagons and it made everything LOOK DIFFERENT. *cue horror movie music*
Erin has explained that I need to have in my mind that Rocky can do this, physically. I am still in such a habit of “babying” him because of his odd lamenesses of the past, but actually, all year this year, the only thing wrong with him is that I’ve allowed him to be so out of condition. So, with it firmly in my mind that YES, Rocky can walk past a stack of pallets outside the barn, with his ribcage centered and his nose and tail in a straight line, and all I have to do is keep myself centered and looking up and ahead and then if he wiggles he’ll run into my body and realign … we walked past them on each of our circuits and lo! he stopped shying at them. He stopped even thinking about shying at them. He got busy trying to find something else to shy about instead.
And I burst out laughing, because he was so transparent about it — glancing around and then doing a double-take at a tarp we had passed in this same direction several times today and on Sunday without his even giving it a glance. And then, I kid you not, he turned his head just enough to glance at me out of the corner of his eye. I told him “don’t be a dork” and he practically shrugged, and on we walked. My laughter reminded me to breathe which inspired me to sing and since Rocky loves it when I sing, we got smooth and found harmony! We added in some walk-trot-walk transitions at various landmarks along the way, which Rocky seemed to enjoy quite a bit. And since we had a nice long straight line for it, we had a pretty nice trot, all things considered.
Erin is working with me on my focus. It’s a lot more than simply looking where you want to go. She told me that Rocky will respond to my confidence and become more relaxed and willing because of it, and I felt that this morning.
Many, many areas need improvement. My balance is still off and I think I’m going to have to wear two bras — maybe three — at least until I can get my trotting rhythms more secure. I’m still too heavy on the reins. Basically, I need a lot of practice at scales and arpeggios before I will be fit enough to play even a simple tune. But I can read music and hear how the tune will go, and I can chord-fake when I get lost. I’m happy with where we are. More importantly, Rocky is too.