|Longer leg, straighter posture, loose shoulders - he's a quick study.|
Wednesday evening, driving out to meet Tim for our fifth lesson, I found myself deciding two specific goals for his ride. If he could achieve both of them, I thought another goal might be met as well, especially if it could sort of be ponied, or led, silently between the other two. Sometimes the concert of action and reaction, give and take, aid and response between horse and rider can become overwhelming. It's easy to get lost trying to coordinate all the movements into the seemingly effortless symphony they are meant to be; it's a kind of turbocharged multitasking, I think. Plus you have to leave room for fun, appreciation, and constant awareness of your surroundings. Huh. How come riding is still the most relaxing thing in the world?
My first decision was to conduct the lesson in the outdoor arena. Though its surface is a little rough, it's much bigger than the round pen and would provide Tim an opportunity to ride in long, straight lines. My second decision was to introduce the concept of forward through addressing the leg aids. What I wanted to leave unspoken between those two decisions was the work we'd be doing to bring Tim further along in his use of the reins.
I set Tim to riding Saxony the full depth and breadth of the arena, starting by keeping her steady along the fence line. The size of the arena, coupled with its slight incline, presented a useful new perspective for Tim. He quickly discovered how long Saxony's stride is compared to Gambler's. She covers ground. Walking alongside at a distance of 15 feet, I casually asked him to move her off the rail and toward me by opening the inside rein and laying on his outside leg. Saxony moved in. We settled into an exercise of serpentines, in to the rail, then out from the rail, six strides per change. Eventually I walked a much smaller oval at the center of the arena while Tim rode serpentines along the perimeter.
It was hot, and Saxony was sluggish in her walk. Poor thing, I exploited her laziness to teach my thespian student about finding forward. I asked Tim to take up the reins a little bit and lengthen his legs against Saxony's sides. Her ears tuned in right away. "Just think forward, Tim, and squeeze your calves against her. You're just picking her up and sending her on." We practiced it again and again until Tim could hold Saxony in a good working walk, even catching her before she started to settle back. It was a good, long lesson, culminating in Saxony chewing and blowing out. That right there, her chewing and sighing, spoke to how well Tim had used the reins. He'd kept a light, even contact with Saxony through most of the lesson because it's not what he'd been focused on, not at all. We weren't talking about the rein aids, we were using them. Just like that, he's begun to find the touch.