Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Miles to Go . . .

On Sunday I trotted Cricket for one mile. Literally. Ed (good friend and barn owner) measured out our arena and determined that thirteen laps was the equivalent of one mile. And Cricket and I trotted thirteen circuits around the arena. It was pretty cool!

In all our previous riding sessions, Cricket has been very much out of harmony with me. Asking her up to the trot produces an often bracey, high head and racy movement. The only way I can keep her connected is to do very short yo-yos using walk to trot (three strides) to walk transitions. I was beginning to lose confidence in all I accomplished last fall. I was bummed but okay with starting over (again!).

And then on Sunday she just came back to me. She was a bit snarky during saddling and mounting. It wasn't yet her idea and I kind of plowed through that and got on her anyway. After a little meandering I realized what I'd done and slowed things down to get her mentally with me. We made a circuit of the arena with the reins just laying on her neck. It's the best we've done since November.

Shortly afterwards, Ed told me about measuring the arena. My initial goal was just half a mile. Cricket was forward and very un-cadenced. After six laps I figured why not go the whole mile? Just as we finished the 13th lap, Cricket dropped her head, lifted her back, blew out and just accepted what we were doing. I melted to a halt and dwelled with her.

I find it interesting that Cricket - a fairly classic LBI - would be so forward in the confines of a covered arena. She's supposed to sull up with arena work, particularly repetitious arena work. Hmm, how interesting. I'm thinking it has as much to do with my focus and the feeling that we were going somewhere. I want to incorporate more of this into our riding. It will condition her and give me a chance to improve my balance and harmony with her. It should also help her regulate her trot - something I've been meaning to work on for the past several years.


Naturally Gaited said...

13 times around - wow. I don't think that I've ever asked myself to go more than 2 times around an arena at a time. ;-) You BOTH will be getting into shape!

horsegirlonajourney said...

This reminded me of something I had forgotten, from the old-new Level 1 (blue box) and from Stephanie Burns' book Move Closer Stay Longer. In both, Pat talks about maintaining the trot for a certain length of time. For Stephanie it was 7 minutes. In L1 I think it was 21 minutes, eventually, for the passenger lesson. I love that you decided well what the heck, let's keep going and see what happens. I wonder if that helps with the focus, because once one decides to complete the mile, one doesn't have as much "was that fear or unconfidence? is she bracing or am i?" going on in the brain. We know we're stuck til the end so we might as well breathe and attempt to make it more comfortable for everyone concerned. LOL

Lisa said...

My personalized horsenality report pegged Cricket at as a mild/moderate LBI. But we have made tons of progress as she is beginning to be a rather atypical LBI. Her under saddle work is very forward - preferring to trot than stop and often offering the canter (though I'm not quite ready to pick that back up yet). It's harder to motivate her on the ground - graduating from 22' to 45' is proving quite difficult.

I think the fun part of the arena exercise was that I felt like we were doing something/going somewhere. It was no longer aimless circles on the rail. We were trotting one mile. It might not be much but it was purpose. I think that made most of the difference. When I can get back to riding, I plan on doing more - incorporating a mile in each direction into our riding as often as I have the time to do it.

If nothing else, it will be rewarding to show up to camp and be able to say I've been riding my horse (as opposed to the usual "haven't done much since last camp" introduction)

Dreamer said...

Lisa, thanks for your comments on focus and purpose. Because I have the attention span of a gnat I consiously try to improve my focus, but it will be exiting to incorporate purpose, even in the area. Although Dreamer is a RBI who loves repitition, transitions are what improved her impulsion on the ground. Do you think your play with transitions improved Cricket's impulsion?

Lisa said...

Cricket's impulsion on the ground is less than stellar. Unless she really feels like turning it on, I have a hard time getting her energy up when we play on-line. She tends to get a sour attitude and a "stop making me" feel about her. It's my fault and we're working on improving our communication rather than just using the rope to trap her into what I want. But I digress . . .

Transitions have been *great* for Cricket. I think, used correctly, they help engage her mentally. Our best online work comes when I use a "pattern" taught to me by a natural dressage instructor. Mark would have me trot her on the 22' and then ask for the canter. After just a few strides of canter, ask her to come back to the trot but in such a soft and subtle way that she could maintain the forward of the canter but in the lower gait. Playing with this will get Cricket's upward transitions so soft, so smooth - she'll offer to canter lap after lap easing into it like this.

Under saddle, she's just become so much more forward in the last year. I think she's more mild in her LBI and has some LBE tendencies. It wasn't until my riding improved (thanks to Pilates - not Linda's Pilates, though) that we started getting better under saddle responses.

~ Lisa