On Thursday at Barn #2, I was in for a treat; I was able to ride a new horse. Moonshine is a 5, and he is being groomed for his new career as a lesson horse. I used to meet the prospect of riding a new pony with a certain amount of apprehension, usually in anticipation of the canter. I guess I must be honest and say that if there is one gait that can cause nightmares, it is the canter. This is ridiculous, because it is also my favorite gait, other than the rack, but there is that irrational fear that one of these days I’ll get on a horse and it won’t understand the word whoa.
Anyway, both S and Katie told me I needed to be “soft” with Moonshine. I am not a soft rider – I am loud and demanding, and Moonshine really let me know when I was shouting my cues at him. He didn’t like it one bit, and he didn’t hesitate to let me know by crow-hopping at the beginning of a canter. I really like this horse. He was honest and upfront, and tried to do everything I told him to do. Even when I told him to fly off like a cannon ball. How can you not like a pony who only wants to please?
I have been working very hard to be lighter with my hands. It is sometimes hard with my horses, because they both tend to have hard mouths, thanks to me riding too much off of my hands and not enough off of my legs. This was very evident going the second way, because I couldn’t keep Moonshine in the corners. This was getting me very frustrated, and I kept trying to neck rein. S kept telling me I needed to figure it out, and I appreciate that she gives me the opportunity to try to learn from my mistakes. I knew I wasn’t using enough inside leg to keep him over, but I just couldn’t fix this during the lesson. We were getting better at the canter cues, though, and overall, it was a good lesson. It left me with a lot to think about, in terms of being lighter and softer, yet still effectively guiding and steering the horse.
Last night, I rode Nyk for the first time in about two weeks. He was much lighter in the mouth when we started, but by the end, he was getting heavy again. But, we worked mainly on keeping him slow, without worrying too much about his head set. He gets going like a marching soldier, leaning on his bridle, and then I feel like I can’t get him to back off of it.
Going the second way, I had the same problem that I had the night before; Nyk kept cutting the corners, especially at the far end of the arena. I tried to work this out by myself, but finally had to ask M for help. Putting my inside leg on him was only speeding him up. She gave me a whip, and had me walk him straight down the rail into the wall. If he veered to the inside, whack him on the shoulder. My, he didn’t like that one little bit, but it did fix the problem. He scooted around the corner the next time around at a canter, and I had to run him into the wall when he wouldn’t stop, and then we had to walk to get him focused back on his manners. He did stay out of the middle of the ring, though. I felt that we accomplished a lot in terms of speed control. Let’s see if this carries over to the next time I ride him.