Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Owning a Horse: The Antidote to a Bad Day

I was in a terrible, pissy mood yesterday. Just various irritations and problems at work all loaded on my head that added up to a foul, black temperament by the end of the day. I had a dressage lesson scheduled last night and, up until about 5:30, I wasn't even sure if I was going to be able to get out from under work stuff to be able to go, but I managed to get everything done in time and headed out.

It was hot and sticky with the threat of storms pretty much all day. I wasn't sure how much energy we'd be able to muster. I also had to strap my BlackBerry to my leg in case something came up with work, so I really wasn't starting off the ride on the best possible terms. Still, any day where I manage to ride is a good one, so already Tuesday was improving. After a warm-up on a loose rein, Ruby and I got to work and right away I felt that her stride was energetic and that there was a good swing to her back. I didn't need to do much warm-up or suppling to encourage this, it seemed to happen pretty freely. This was a great sign that we we were going to get some very good work done. Trainer had us do some significant lateral work at the trot in which Ruby was very responsive. We moved on to lateral work combined with transitions during which Ruby was very focused and engaged with the effort. Trainer took advantage of Ruby's willingness and by the fact that I seemed to have garnered enough energy to hold it all together (believe me, sometimes that strength is fleeting) and had us work very hard, first on leg-yielding across the ring at the canter combined with working-medium-working canter transitions, and then on riding a broken line at the canter. Now, this sounds simple enough, but Trainer stressed that this is our first exercise towards developing a counter canter. The broken line took a lot of concentration and focus from Ruby and a lot of concentration, focus and core engagement from me to hold it together, keep the correct bend, keep the quality of the canter, the roundness, the engagement from behind, and the connection through the bridle. It was a lot of moving parts all at once and just knowing what every muscle in my body was doing, while knowing what every muscle in Ruby's body was doing all at the same time was far more than enough to make my crappy work day float completely away. Our efforts to the left were quite nice and I feel that we did the exercise correctly. To the right? Well, that still needs work. Still, I am extremely encouraged when I think of where we were a few months ago when I could not get even a few strides of acceptable canter to save my life. Now we are working on fairly advanced work (advanced for Ruby, and, well, for me).

Just the fact that Trainer felt that we were ready for this and that we were able to pull off some very good moments left me very happy and almost glowing by the time the ride was done. Oh yeah and I was as limp as a rag by the time it was all done too.

My bad, stressful, irritating day at the office? A distant memory. There is plenty to be said for the peaceful hack on horseback and how it "soothes the soul" or some cliched sentiment, but I have to say that a very good, intensely focused session of work with a horse has an incredible amount of merit in my book too.

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