I think I’ve hit a plateau in my riding. Last year was such a whirlwind of learning, that right now I feel very stagnant and it’s getting me down. It’s hard to write about hacks and lessons when you feel generally ‘meh’ about them; I rode okay, Miles went okay, but nothing spectacular happened. But that’s life and I’m committed to enjoying the ride, no matter what.
My last lesson was Monday, as in over a week ago, and it was entirely on the flat. I enjoy flat lessons for several reasons, one of which being that it gives me ideas of what to work on during my weekday rides, but also because my trainer always comes up with fun exercises. I’m not super creative when it comes to riding by myself, although if you can believe it I have become more varied in my routine in the last few years, so I always appreciate ideas of new things to do. Miles, however, does not enjoy flat lessons. He’d much rather be jumping, so it’s extra important with him to be creative and engage his brain so he’s too busy to be grumpy. In this vein, Trainer set up four ground poles in a square, with two at the top of the square slightly angled.
We started at the trot, making a circle around each of the ground poles. The goal was to have correct geometry and stay at a consistent pace throughout. I started off rusty, but the more we went the better it got. I was able to see my path more clearly and was able to support Miles more accurately through each turn. He did very well with the first half of each circle, but needed firm outside aids to keep from drifting out, as well as more leg to keep impulsion. He constantly wanted to fall out and slow down through the second half of every circle. But the more I corrected him, the more he learned what I wanted and the less I had to pick at him. We then repeated the exercise at the canter and I learned that we still need to focus on fitness. Four large canter circles in a row nearly did us both in!
We finished the lesson with a second exercise, where we cantered the poles in varying seats: first sitting and then two-point. We also mixed up the striding between the poles — first at a slower six and then a more forward five. Overall, the exercise really highlighted our weaknesses, which is good in the sense that it clearly shows what I need to be working on. But also left me a bit down on myself that we struggled so much with what seemed like an easy exercise. So our homework is this: more cantering to build up fitness, as well as incorporating work at every gait in different seats. I also need to work on being comfortable with a shorter rein length. Basically? There’s a lot of work ahead for Mr. Miles and I.
The short version – I need more strength, more fitness and more contact, which leads directly to needing more leg. More of everything!