The weather has warmed up here, but today was a nasty day, foggy and rainy. I actually like those kinds of days because they remind me of England, but they make for soggy arenas and muddy pastures, not ideal for riding. I went to do my barn chores and the rain let up to a soft sprinkle, so I decided to tack up and hop on. I’m 6 months pregnant, and my doctors have already advised against my riding, so who knows how many more rides I’ll get in before my husband insists that I stop.
I rode Baron without a martingale for the first time since this summer and I was wondering whether he would go back to his old habit of tossing his head up and hollowing his back. Much to my surprise and pleasure, he sought contact with the bit and arched his neck very nicely, even at the walk!
I try to have a goal for each ride, and this time my goal was to practice some of the things I’ve been reading about. I’m reading “Ride With Your Mind” by Mary Wanless and she has some very good suggestions for visualizing the way your body should move with your horse. I want to do a whole post about this a little later, but for now let me just explain one of her images. She talks about imagining yourself “plugged in” to the horses back, as if your two seat bones are the metal pieces that plug into an electric socket. The idea is to connect with your horse’s long back muscles in the correct spot so that he is comfortable and you are solid in your seat. As I rode today, I visualized myself as an electric plug stuck firmly into my horse’s back and I found it very helpful. I felt more solid and I felt each time I moved off of that correct spot. More on that later…
It is very easy for riders to focus on the negative aspects of their ride, especially if they are like me and are chomping at the bit to get better so they can show. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by what we don’t know or how far we have to go in the learning process. I am far from what I consider a “good” rider, but I am getting better. I decided to focus on that today. Even at 6 months pregnant with a growing baby bump, I feel more secure in my seat than I did this summer and I feel my thighs getting stronger and more snug to the saddle. It helped that my horse was rounding nicely and accepting contact with the bit. He’s quite a comfortable horse to ride when he doesn’t hollow his back!
When I ride at my barn, I always do a little arena work first and then head down the road toward the trail. I got some nice trot work in the arena, and some gorgeous cantering on the dirt road on the way toward the woods. I was even able to sit the canter a little better today. I usually ride it in half seat because I feel more secure standing in my stirrups. It feels more like surfing used to feel. Today I sat it and did fairly well. I grabbed some mane just as a safety net, but I was surprised at how easily I adjusted to the motion. I swear Baron’s canter is a million times better than his trot. His trot is so bouncy and sometimes rushed, but when he canters he stretches out and takes long, smooth strides. I looooooove cantering on him, but not so much trotting. Trotting feels like a lot more work.
Finally, on the way back, instead of turning down the driveway to the barn like he usually does, Baron wanted to keep going. We rode out a little ways along the road where we’ve never ridden before. A couple cars passed and he was perfectly calm, just enjoying the new sights and change of scenery. It was one of those moments where you think, “THIS is why I bought a horse!” Just a quiet peaceful walk where we were enjoying being together. I’m so glad I decided to ride today!