Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Is A Great Ride?

Smiling at the SAFE Show 8/5/2012 -Photo by Karen Wegehenkel

Rode in a lesson last night. Afterwards, one of the girls at the barn asked me how it went, and I shrugged my shoulders and said "It was okay" while at the same time my trainer said "She had a great ride!"

Huh? A great ride? I did? Are you sure you are talking about what took place in the arena about 10 minutes ago on a certain bay standardbred?

And then that got me thinking about it- why is it that I felt like my ride was so-so, meh, and my trainer thought it was great? I certainly didn't feel great, nor did I feel like I accomplished anything or made any huge breakthroughs.

But upon thinking about it, maybe I did. And maybe a great ride doesn't always feel great.

When I envision a great ride- I have a soft, active, forward, supple moving horse that feels effortless to ride. I hear comments such as "great," " super," " beautiful," and " that's it!" from my trainer. All three of us are on the same page.

This was not my recollection of last night's ride. So what exactly did happen?

We started off with a long walk. I was telling my trainer about what we did during the past week, and that I realized that I, as a rider, am much better off if I figure out my position first and then bring the horse into it, vs trying to make the horse perfect then correct my position. Basically, my own equitation is great until I pick up the reins and attempt to have contact.

And so I showed her. And then slowly I picked up the contact, and life was better. So we changed things up. When Ben flipped his head at me, we worked on something else. Basically, she said - if what you are attempting isnt working, do something else, and here are things you can do. And so it went - we went through a series of exercises to use. 

So instead of resisting his face with my body, I just quietly held my reins and practiced booting him up. Sure, he was above the bit, a lot. It wasn't pretty. But man, it is much easier to ride him. I could fix my upper body. And a couple of times, we broke into canter. And the canter was easier to sit. Last week my seat at the canter was so tight, I had gotten the order that I had to work on loosening my lower half and strengthening the upper- because I have been doing the exact opposite.

From there we added poles to trot through and then pick up the canter.

It felt ugly a lot of the time, but I felt like a more solid rider. My canter seat was much much better than last week.

This morning, I was talking to a friend about it, and she also said my ride looked GREAT. WTF, why didn't I feel great, then? I guess it is because I expect progress to be linear - one thing develops off the next, and you never look back. Reality is, progress is a tangled web. You get better at one thing and something else goes to hell, at least temporarily. Over time, though, you move forward. But ride to ride, week to week, you may feel like you take steps backward, or no steps forward, or things that were going well suddenly aren't. And sometimes a great ride means you worked through some of this - a great ride may not be a pretty, feel good ride at all.

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