Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Portable Education

Saxony and I left the training barn on October 15th. That was a Monday. I gave her six days to settle back in at the old barn, which was easy to do because I'm readying to leave the festival site and return to the city. I was busy and dragging my feet at the same time. So much of the festival season for me was about my mare being just across the state line and both of us being in school. I wondered in the back of my mind did some of it, any of it, really take? I was hesitant to test us, because all of it seemed more real with our trainer right there, as though it were flowing from her, encircling us in just an illusion of skill.

I had it wrong. What we learned during our six weeks there, the progress we made, cured and set, hardening into actual knowledge on Sunday morning at the barn when I went through a schooling session with Saxony. Just her and me. In-hand work. Warm-up walk/trot. Shoulder in, haunches in, half pass. Oh, she knows it, and I kind of do too. The education we received proved to be completely portable. Maybe there can be no better endorsement of a trainer than that. I'm sure we lacked finesse, but we didn't lack focus, direction, or recollection. Understanding that is just one of what I'm sure will be many dividends to come out of our costly six weeks. It was a sound investment.

We have a basic curriculum to work on until we go back, me to lighten and quiet all my aids, her to grow stronger, rounder, rhythmic, better balanced. Trot, trot, trot, forward walk, trot, trot. B said to me, "I'll be able to tell if you've been working on your sitting trot."

But I have to back up. The week before we left, I stacked up lessons on Saxony, trying to cram it in with our departure  imminent. I had a lesson on Monday, another on Thursday, and then another on Friday. Between the Thursday and Friday lessons, I rode a different horse. This one.

He's a Lusitano stallion, "finished," so to speak. I'd never ridden a horse of his caliber, but the offer was made to enable me to feel the difference between my evolving mare and a horse who is all the way there. I'll write about him next. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Necking With My Mare

We had a session yesterday, so I went looking for Saxony, camera in hand, as her round pen had been moved to fresh grass. There she was, beside one wing of the barn, watching me approach.

She dispatched the clublike carrot I offered. I love the crazy mess there at the end of her blaze, like white paint that ran thin through the canyon of her nostril and then pooled along her upper lip.

We had such a good lesson. My trainer sat in the bleachers of the indoor arena and gave instructions. We're leaving on October 15th, so she's setting us up with a sort of working curriculum until next July, when I hope to bring Saxony back to her for the festival summer.

Does it make any sense to say I rode my horse? That's how it felt. Forward walk, really big forward walk, then in to shoulders in, both directions. Don't drive her with my leg or seat. An extended segment of sitting trot. Sit, sit, sit. Trotting on a big circle, working on contact, keeping the bend. Our circles are drunken, but we were working. One, two, one, two. I can count the beats of the trot out loud if I need to. Then haunches in, which we'd never done. B just called it out, with plain directions. We did it; there wasn't time not to because we were just moving, flowing. Ending the hour with a forward walk on the buckle. I'm becoming able to think Saxony into changing directions during our stretching walks on the buckle. Her walk is different now, wavelike to ride, soothing and carrying. I didn't want to get off.

Back at the round pen, I saw that my mare has discovered her neck, now grown strong and shapely through her five-times-a-week training regimen (not including my own rides on her.) 

She likes to lift her head high over the round pen panels and sometimes rest her jaw up high as if to stretch. And maybe she is stretching. It's another thing she's learned to do, stretch down and sigh out during work. Just as she's learned to present her face for the bridle and stay quiet at the mounting block. She seems to like having a job, seems to like school. I've loved my mare all along, but I've discovered more in her than I ever knew was there. 

Leaving, I turned back, certain she'd be watching me. She likes people; she's a people horse. But I've finally realized that she's bonded most to me, which is the one thing I never expected to come of this time.