Yesterday I woke up stiff and feeling more like a senior than I really wanted to - fortunately stretching and doing chores worked to remedy that, and probably because I wanted to prove to my body and the universe that in fact I am still alive and kicking, I saddled up Keil Bay after breakfast and we had a ride.
By the time we got into the arena it was mid-day though - not his favorite time to ride if the temps are above 60, which they were. Full sun and this time of year some pesky insects make it less than ideal, but I pulled out the new Quiet Ride mask I bought recently so that I could offer some relief for Keil and Cody as we roll into the warmer seasons of the year.
The ride started out with the pokiest walk I've had on the Big Bay in a long time. Really really poky. As is our deal, I allowed him to set the poky pace for the first 5-10 minutes. We poked around and I took the opportunity to just relax and breathe, making sure I wasn't holding tension anywhere.
In hindsight, I should have done some stretching in the saddle but it didn't occur to me at the time!
Generally if we start out poky like that Keil will work himself into a more forward walk, but yesterday he didn't. I felt myself getting grumpy - I really missed his big panther walk and it's difficult to come from really good rides back to poky. I got louder with my legs and when I starting shoving with my seat realized I was just being ridiculous. With Keil Bay, saying it out loud in plain English is always the key to success.
"We need to pull out of this, Big Bay. Let's wake up and do a Big Walk."
And he responded with some energy. We continued walking, now with some energy, but it didn't build from there, so I asked for the trot. Upping the movement helped, and we were able to return to the walk but with much better rhythm. Yesterday, whenever we lost rhythm at the walk, we moved into trot and got it back that way.
Interestingly, turns on the forehand and haunches were near perfection, as was the backing. It might be of note that these were done in the shade!
Most of our ride centered on getting both of us relaxed and into a rhythm, which was fine. The overall message for me was that I need to get out to the barn early in the day now and ride after hay but before breakfast tubs, which suits the Big Bay much better. He will work hard for food and I can "feed the work" at the same time.
His reward yesterday for sticking with me was the grand opening of the gate to the back field, which has been closed off for a week and a half. The donkey boys have been slipping through the fence and helping themselves and the horses and pony have been highly annoyed - so when I unlatched the big gate and let it swing open there was a mass movement of horse flesh to the back. Not only was there good grass, but it's shady back there that time of day. I barely saw any of this herd the rest of the afternoon - they were busy busy busy.
Later in the day, after the sun was mostly down, I rode Cody. He's been out of work due to daughter's broken toe and it's time to get him going again. Cody is such a different ride, and when I ride he and Keil both in the same day it's extremely apparent. Cody, though not a small horse, is narrower than Keil Bay, and I immediately noticed my hips moving so much more as he walked off from the mounting block. He's more sensitive to all the aids so I have to notch everything way down. He's not as highly trained as Keil Bay so some of the communications I can do with Keil just aren't there for Cody. But his willingness and his sensitivity make for a very nice ride and I see lots of quick results in his movement when I incorporate some of the lower level dressage movements into our work.
He's very good at shoulder-in and shoulder-in is very good at suppling him exactly where he needs it, so once we warmed up we did some of that. We did a lot of walking and a lot of different figures yesterday. My big triumph was adjusting my stirrups from the saddle - my stirrups for Keil are always set for me, so I never have to adjust. Cody's were adjusted for...???... I'm not sure who - Gumby, maybe, as the left stirrup was about 5 inches longer than the right. I didn't realize until I got on and decided I needed to practice adjusting from the saddle instead of getting off and back on again.
I admit, my first thought was to call daughter to come help me! But I resisted and did it myself.
The only thing I didn't enjoy about the ride was Cody's saddle - his dressage saddle is a Wintec which we bought when he was younger so we could change the gullet as needed. It is REALLY noticeable to me how much I dislike this saddle after I have ridden in Keil's County Warmblood. The Wintec is flatter, which is fine, but I've realized over time and definitely noted yesterday that I dislike the feel of synthetic saddles. I hate the synthetic billet straps and the feel of the saddle underneath me is just too rigid. It doesn't have the feel that leather does.
It's on my list to find a good dressage saddle for Cody now that he's stopped growing and I'm riding him again.
Cody did a good job and when I got off I was as supple as could be. Now it's a new day and I should be out there doing it all over again!
And meant to add this quote which came into my email box yesterday:
When your horse has reached his potential, leave it. It's such a nice feeling when you and your horses are still friends.
~ Reiner Klimke