Last night Nicole and I got to ride in the arena pretty much by ourselves. It had been four days since Nicole was out and Cali was pretty up. Being cooped up because of the snow and inconsistent work because of the snow, leaves the horses a bit tense and energetic.
I swear to you, Ashke sighed in relief when I brought the saddle out instead of the rig.
He was nifty last night. No fight. Eager to go. Spooked at the sunlight streaming in through the windows, because it's been so long since we've seen sunlight. Spooked at the wet sand by the gate and the standing water on the floor behind the arena fence. Spooked at the black stool just outside the clubhouse door. He was a bit spooky.
The saddle held me firm and comfortable during all those spooks. I am liking it more and more as it breaks in and I get accustomed to riding in it. Nicole says my form has improved and I can feel myself come more and more in balance as we go.
Riding is no longer the easy, carefree, cling-without-thought to the horse's back that it once was. Partly due to the lack of muscle I've managed to come to this sport with, and partly due to being in my head too much. I'm sitting deeper in the saddle now, with more weight on the balls of my feet. I'm moving more easily with Ashke. And I feel more confident in my seat than I did before.
Ashke feels better too. I can see the muscle starting to develop on both sides of his spine and his topline is getting stronger every day. He picked up the canter in both directions on the correct lead. It was a little smoother to the left, but it is definitely getting better to the right as well. He has stopped crosscantering, which is good, because that tells me his back is getting stronger and he is becoming better balanced.
I've also realized that I need to work on learning to ride with contact. When I rode in the past, it was never with contact on the horse's mouth unless we were doing some type of reining. Cantering was on a loose rein. As was trotting. Ashke seems to feel better when there is contact between me and him, although my goal is for that contact to be as light as possible.
Cali was pretty headstrong. Nicole really had to force her to canter on the right lead. She did finally give in toward the end and pick up that lead fairly easily as they were working in smaller circles. Nicole was thinking she is broken, but honestly, I just think it's harder for her to go that way and she is developing an opinion about it. I think it's the difference between a three and a half year old filly and a four year old mare developing into her own personality. I think Nicole has gone from the toddler stage to the teenager stage, which is filled with frustrated anger, tears, hard work, improved communication, kicking and squeeling and an occassional buck thrown in. I don't think it'll last too long and is stemming from the increased demands Nicole is placing on her. Basically, it's mental and as soon as Cali matures just a bit and sees it's not going to kill her and that her mom is still going to be a good leader for her, it will settle down.
Which will just be nifty.