Friday, October 7, 2011

And ... the lightbulbs keep coming ...

I have become a wimp in my old age.  15 years ago, I literally wrote down the name of every single horse I sat on.  It was a mission of mine to sit on as MANY as possible.  Up until 3 years ago, I still had this mentality a little bit.  I used to go over to a barn that re trained ottb's, and got to ride pretty much whenever I wanted.  Weirdly enough, these horses were much more difficult than Tiki, but flatting I felt pretty good, so I was fine on them.

Once Tiki turned into a 'real' horse, and we started jumping 'real' jumps, I lost the desire to ride other horses.  ANY other horses.  It is so much pressure to get in the necessary rides on my ONE horse that there's definitely not enough time in the day to ride multiple horses.  Ok, maybe that's a little bit of an excuse.  Ever since I warmed up one of our lesson horses for IEA Regionals 2 years ago, and he literally stopped and jumped every single jump from a standstill to the point that I ended up behind the saddle, voluntarily dismounted while moving, and passed him off to a better rider, I've been a little gun shy about performing in public on unfamiliar horses.

When honorary little sis Nicole suggested Project Pony Swap for the month of October (once a week, not every ride!), I thought, "Why not?"  Today was swap day one.  The victim willing participant:  Sparky, aka Napolean Dynamite.  Sparky is a mostly Morgan gelding that stands 14.2 1/2 on a tall day, and is the epitome of "Barbie" pony!  He also has a ... um, "Wheee" streak?  In the words of Greg Best (yes, THE Greg Best):  "Yes, you're right!  He IS an asshole!"  Let's just say that I took my phone with me up to the ring today;)

I opted to ride in cc saddle even though I was SORELY tempted to ride in the dressage saddle due to the GORGEOUS browband on his bridle.  Like little sis, I just could NOT bring myself to mix the black, obviously dressage bridle with the brown cc saddle, so I ended up using his "bad pony" bit.  For Sparky, "bad pony" is a full cheek snaffle with a double jointed center that attaches to a tiny round copper ball.  I knew he'd spent a little time in a stall lately, so I just wanted to make sure that I had recourse should I need it.  Headed up to the ring, raised my stirrups NINE holes, then hopped on.  Believe it or not, they were just a hole short, so lowered them to 8 holes up from little sis' length, and took off on a marching walk.

Sparky leans to the inside like he's an 18 hand warmblood.  Looks to the outside, leans and pops on that inside shoulder, and makes you work to get him in front of your leg.  THE most challenging type of horse for me and my short legs to ride.  Spent some quality time at the walk circling, spiraling, and performing shoulder-ins.  At the trot, he promptly arched that Barbie pony neck of his and dropped behind the bit.  I worked to get him up on the contact, and rode him with my LEGS.  He is exactly the type of horse I like to overuse my hands on, and cross my inside rein to attempt to get that inside shoulder STRAIGHT, so I tried hard to keep about 5" between my hands, right on the right, left on the left.  Gigi's advice thundered in my brain.  "FLEXION ON THE INSIDE REIN!  GET HIM DOWN INTO THE OUTSIDE REIN!"  So, I flexed him with the inside, used leg, and squeezed my outside rein, and he settled into a lovely contact with a nice, straight free flowing trot.  Thinking of his notorious "duck and run" move that he randomly does at random jumps, I set out 2 jumps as poles on the ground between 2 standards.  I have no plans to actually jump him, but working over poles and cavalettis are fair game.  Trotted over the poles at random intervals, and he did those better than my horse typically does.

The canter transition was VERY "runny".  In other words, not clean.  It FELT good once I got it.  Again, I concentrated on not crossing my inside rein, and kept him on the contact and not behind the contact.  Did my favorite exercise from when I was riding Mick (see MUCH earlier blog posts!), which is a 10m circle, reverse across a diagonal.  Rinse and repeat a million times.  I finally cantered him to a pole, and by GEORGE I think I've diagnosed WHY Sparky does the duck and spin at the last minute.  Even though he LOOKS like he's cantering in on the bit, I could feel him suck behind the bit, thus avoiding ALL correct contact.  Of COURSE that opens him up to being allowed to go wherever he wants, and since we all now know he can be an asshole ...

Just my theory!  The point of the swap is to improve us as riders, and hopefully fill in some gaps and help improve each other's horses as well.  I ended up having a great time, but I'm SURE I will have some super sore legs tomorrow.  Lessons tomorrow, first IEA show of the season Sunday, dressage lesson Thursday and XC lesson on Saturday.  TOTALLY looking forward to this week, woo hoo!

I did ride my pony today, but it's bed time, so I will update that tomorrow:)

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