Friday, January 8, 2010

Making Lemonade

Well, I couldn't take Pandora to my scheduled dressage lesson on Wednesday because I am letting her poll get all healed up. So where do I turn? To my ever-faithful backup horse, of course!

McKinna was not too thrilled about her pre-lesson bath. Not that I was either. Winter-bathing a white horse with no hot water wash rack is not so much fun. But we got her moderately clean. Presentable for a lesson, at least.

The arena at Leslie's is beautiful. The footing is soft and spongy but not irritatingly deep. It's a very nice size. There's mirrors down one short side, perfect for watching your lateral work as you come down the rail.

I showed up with my mostly-clean grey wooly mammoth QH/Arab mare and a jumping saddle, feeling just the slightest bit like a heathen who just stumbled into a dressage arena from the eventing world. (As you'll recall, we sold our dressage saddle last month, so jumping saddle it was.) But I made sure to dress nicely to make up for it!

Of course it wasn't a big deal at all. Leslie is extremely nice and very funny.

I had a great lesson. Leslie had me working on getting McKinna to soften to the bit and carry herself on her own instead of leaning on my hands with her nose poked out. We spent the whole time on a circle. She had me ride with my hands low and wide, keep her turning off that outside shoulder so she didn't bulge out but also reminding her to bend her body with my inside leg, and then ask her to soften by squeezing one rein. At first I had to be pretty firm to get her to give a little, but McKinna is pretty quick on the uptake, so it wasn't long before she understood what was going on.

We did this at walk and trot both directions. I warned Leslie before too long that McKinna's canter is not particularly fit and she tends to rush, hind legs trailing out behind. So after we go for awhile, she asked me to pick up the canter while keeping my hands low and wide to remind her to stay soft and on a light contact.

I picked up the canter.

"Oh my," said Leslie. "I think that is the fastest little canter I have ever seen."

Well. At least I warned her :-)

That being said, using the same strategy as I had at the walk and trot, I was able to get McKinna to actually soften at the canter. As a result, she starts to stretch over her topline and brings her butt under her. She goes 'Um, that's really hard work,' and slows down. Happens at all three gaits, but quite noticeable at the canter. The softening is a very cool feeling and I'm really looking forward to schooling this on both of the horses.

I wish my mom got some video! Next time. She was super excited, by the way, to watch McKinna working her way back to that cute little dressage horse we know is in there. Next thing you know she'll be wanting me to take McKinna every other week too!

I'm looking forward to taking Pandora for a lesson, hopefully next week - she's a lot less headshy but still seems a bit tender in the poll area, so I'm not sure how constructive bridling would be. We'll see this weekend.

In other news, today we are rich in dressage saddles. My mom ordered a used Kieffer, which arrived after we got home from the lesson. It almost fits McKinna and fits Pandora almost perfectly. It is a beautiful saddle. We didn't ride in it, just tried it on, so the test ride for both of them will come tomorrow. I bought a used Thornhill which just arrived today, so that will also get tested out tomorrow. Maybe the Thornhill will fit McKinna perfectly and I can steal the Kieffer. A girl can hope.

Tonight I'm headed to stand in the center and listen while a Pony Club lesson is being taught. Then in two weeks I'm riding in a Friday jumping lesson and then riding in our club's benefit show on Sunday. I will keep it really low key, probably just 2'6, since I didn't get to ride in the jumping clinic last weekend. Thankfully we have a second show in mid-February and I can push the height a little bit there.

I'm looking forward to what's ahead. As soon as I can bridle my horse, that is.


Stacey said...

Hmmm, I might have to give some of that a try with Klein's canter. Thanks!

Leah Fry said...

Read this with your previous post. Scary stuff, that. How great that you have McKinna to pick up the slack.

manymisadventures said...

Good luck, Stacey! I was really pleased with how well it worked. We started at walk and trot and I had to be pretty firm, usually with my outside rein, to get her to soften. But once she understood, she was pretty willing, though she did protest the hard work :)

Leah Fry, it was definitely not my most pleasant horse experience. But, lesson learned, and I can guarantee I'll be much more careful from now on!

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