When I rode on Monday night, one of the things we kind of struggled with was riding off the rail. On the rail, Ashke is a beast. He moves with rhythm and purpose, is more willing to try a frame, and is in his groove (literally). Moving off the rail becomes an issue and we struggle. In part, we struggle because the footing is deep and wet and plain sand, all of which make moving difficult, partly because he understands what he's supposed to do when moving on the rail. He knows his job and he is predicting what will be asked of him. He has a routine and a plan.
Cassandra recognized that tonight in our lesson and told me to ride Chaos. Organized chaos.
Chaos is where you ride without a plan, doing small circle, serpentines, teardrops, straight aways, diagonals and weaving like a drunk sailor. It is designed to shake up the horse and encourage him to listen to me instead of predicting what I am going to ask him to do next. It also takes the rail away as a crutch for the rider. As the rider, the rail becomes part of the half-halt: inside leg to outside rail. When we move away from the rail and begin to work outside of a pattern, it forces both the horse to listen and react to the rider, as well as forces the rider to direct the horse. Chaos or undefined pattern, as it actually is, is much more difficult than riding an oval.
We did not do it well.
I do, however, see the benefits of the process. By the time we had been riding that way for fifteen minutes or so, I could feel when Ashke was feeling more confident, since he would really swing into the trot, usually when we were moving toward the rail. It was like he would see the rail and go "oh, look, I know what to do there. I know where to step and I can use the rail to help me balance." And he would become more balanced as we moved toward it. Then ragged again when we moved away.
It will be our homework for the next two weeks.
That and canter transitions. Yes, we cantered. Yes, I did a bit better. Ashke was much better. There was less struggle, but I still had to remember to breathe. He came right down to the trot when I asked. I think if we can do four trot-canter-trot transitions in each direction every time we ride for the next two weeks, we will be much better in our next lesson. My body is beginning to figure it out.
Although, I do look like a complete fruit loop, arms flapping and legs flailing. Cassandra wants me to lift him up with my heel at the canter, rather than jab my heel repeatedly into his flank. We want lift not speed. I don't know how the hell I'm supposed to do all of the miniscule muscle movements she's talking about and still stay on the horse.
I'm not so good at multitasking on horseback. She was telling me to do something and rather than assume I knew what the hell she was talking about, I stopped and asked her to show me what she meant. She did and I came away with good understanding, but it's still a struggle.
Western riding is not this damn complicated.